Colombo, December 20 (newsin.asia): R.Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentary group and Leader of the opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament, on Wednesday accused Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of violating the constitution and having a bias in favor of the majority Sinhalese community when he appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Leader of Opposition ignoring the fact that Rajapaksa had ceased to be an MP after he switched parties.
In a strongly worded speech, Sampanthan pointed out that Rajapaksa was not even qualified to be a Member of Parliament. More than a month ago, he had resigned from the party he was representing, namely, the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and had become a member of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). As such, he would have to vacate his seat in parliament as per the constitution.
“You would observe that the person recognized by you as Leader of the Opposition does not even hold the position of a Member of Parliament as at the date of such recognition. This would again suggest that your decision has been taken in haste and that your decision is in violation of our constitution,” Sampanthan told the Speaker.
He wondered whether Sri Lanka is moving towards becoming a “failed state which does not recognize the supremacy of its Constitution the primary law.”
Smacks of Majoritarianism
The unseemly hurry in which he was replaced by Rajapaksa as the Leader of the Opposition smacked of majoritarianism, (meaning a bias in favor of the majority Sinhalese), Sampanthan said.
“Sri Lankan citizens who wish to live in an undivided indivisible Sri Lankan State in unity and harmony, view this as an act of majoritarianism which has been the primary cause of the pathetic state in which the country is in today,” he said.
“This emphasizes the urgent and utmost importance of framing a new Constitution that would enable all people inclusive of the Tamil and Tamil Speaking people to live with self-respect and dignity,” he added.
Select Committee Sought
Pressing the Speaker to revisit the appointment of Rajapaksa, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthriran urged the appointment of a Select Committee to ascertain Rajapaksa’s status as to whether he is qualified to sit in the House or not.
On the other hand, Rajapaksa had claimed that he is the leader of the single largest group in the opposition, the Joint Opposition Group, and that he is the genuine opposition in contrast to the TNA, which has only 14 MPs and is also a manifest ally of the United National Front (UNF) government.
Speaker Jayasuriya accepted this argument and appointed Rajapaksa as Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps doing this in a hurry, the Speaker had not removed Sampanthan from the post first, leading to the anomaly of the Sri Lankan parliament having two Leaders of the Opposition.
UPFA Says Rajapaksa Still Party Member
However, after the matter was raised in the House, the General Secretary of the UPFA Mahinda Amaraweera submitted a letter to the Speaker saying that Rajapaksa is still a member of the UPFA.
But Susil Premajayantha, an UPFA MP said that as per the constitution of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the core party of the UPFA, an MP is free to join another party. Rajapaksa is a member of the SLFP.
Forty four SLFP MPs, including Rajapaksa, had joined the SLPP on November 11.
Earlier Rajapaksa had created the SLPP to provide him a separate platform and a separate party to fight elections.
The SLPP had contested the February 2018 local bodies elections and scored an impressive victory, leaving the UNF and the SLFP far behind.
(The featured image at the top shows, R.Sampanthan)