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‘Throne speech mania’ boycotted by Opposition, minority parties present

Claiming that the prorogation of Parliament on two occasions within a short timeframe reflects a serious threat from the Executive Presidency to Parliamentary Legislative democracy and that the Government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe has failed to provide solutions to the people’s issues, over 30 MPs representing the Freedom People’s Alliance chanted “Rajaasana (throne) mania” and walked out of the Parliament yesterday (8) when the President began his throne speech and Statement of Government Policy, while the main Parliamentary Opposition, 
the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), and the National People’s Power (NPP) boycotted the session altogether.

Members of the Alliance that walked out yesterday included MPs Wimal Weerawansa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Prof. G.L. Peiris, Udaya Gammanpila, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Prof. Channa Jayasumana, Prof. Charitha Herath, and several others.

President Wickremesinghe arrived in Parliament last morning to deliver his throne speech, thus inaugurating the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament. Speaker of the Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana and Secretary General of the Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake received the President, and the Serjeant at Arms escorted him to the Parliamentary Chamber, where the President was to preside over the House and deliver the throne speech. In front of him walked the Serjeant at Arms with the mace.

While the SJB and the NPP MPs boycotted the Parliament yesterday, some constituent parties of the SJB-led alliance had participated in the opening session of Parliament. Accordingly, Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Member and MP V. Radhakrishnan, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and MP Rauff Hakeem, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Leader and MP Rishad Bathiudeen, and TPA Leader and MP Mano Ganesan stated that they had decided to participate in the session yesterday and were seen in attendance.

Likewise, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs were also present during the President’s speech. Taking to Twitter, TNA MP Shanakiyan Rajaputhiran Rasamanickam said: “President walks in to address the house at the 4th Session of the 9th Parliament. SJB members boycotted the session, other opposition party members walked out whilst chanting ‘Rajaasana Mania’. TNA is the only main party present apart from Govt. MPs.”

The aforementioned Freedom People’s Alliance MPs stood up when the Serjeant at Arms, carrying the mace, and the President entered the Chamber. However, the said group of MPs chanted“Rajaasana mania” and proceeded to leave the chambers after the mace was placed and the President began walking to the Speaker’s seat to deliver the throne speech.

Speaking to the media, after leaving the chambers, Weerawansa said: “Wickremesinghe, without any mandate, is going to set a world record as the President who has prorogued the Parliament on the most number of occasions in the shortest period of time and the one who has made the most number of throne speeches. The Parliament cannot be used to fulfil his desire for throne speeches. That’s why we, as the Freedom People’s Alliance, attended the Parliament and stood up when the mace was brought, and when he was about to deliver the throne speech, protested and walked out of the Parliament. The protest was made on behalf of the people who are currently suffering, on behalf of the government employees who find it difficult to survive with the little salary they get, and on behalf of the farmers who were cheated by this Government.”

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara also commented to the media: “In the last six months, Wickremesinghe, who became the President with 132 Parliamentary votes, has prorogued the Parliament twice. The prorogation of the Parliament terminates all existing committees, questions raised by MPs, MPs’ proposals, and other agendas. There are about 6,000 questions raised by the MPs, and all of those will have to be rewritten and submitted. The Parliament is not a seal of the President to be used in this way to prorogue as he pleases. We are against the belittlement of MPs in this manner. That’s why we took this decision following discussions with SLFP Chairman and Opposition MP, former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Freedom People’s Alliance.”

Prof. G. L. Peiris spoke to the media and said: “Today, the whole country has become defunct. People are on the streets and therefore, these pressing issues need practical solutions. They can’t be solved by making throne speeches or presenting policy statements. The people are tired of listening to them. Further, the worst result of the prorogation of the Parliament is that the strong programme to put an end to fraud and corruption through various committees appointed by the Parliament completely collapses. Some such committees are chaired by the Opposition. Due to this, 40 committees will be abolished and the programme of exploiting public money will continue.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (7), Prof. Herath claimed that the presentation of policy statements has become a joke at present, adding that Wickremesinghe has presented several policy statements within a short period of time since the latter’s appointment as the President. He also said that the Wickremesinghe-led Government is undermining the democratic model of the country by committing such acts. Recalling an incident where the agenda of the Parliament had been amended after a party leaders’ meeting attended by the President recently, he said that all such moves reflect a serious threat to Parliamentary democracy from the Executive President.