Dep. Speaker gets tough; “MPs like this can be found in jungles”

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The woeful disciplinary standards of some MPs again came to the fore this week after two opposition MPs were ejected from the chamber following heated scenes.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena took steps to order Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarians Nalin Bandara and Wasantha Yapa Bandara of the Freedom People’s Congress (FPA) to leave the chamber for the day after they clashed with Government MPs and Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse during the oral question and answer session on Wednesday morning.

Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse trying to bring the situation under control

Mr Bandara had first asked Wildlife Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi a question about tamed elephants. Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga however, objected that Mr Bandara was making a speech and that it was dragging out Parliament’s time. Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse agreed, moving on from Mr Bandara to the next MP.

Tempers rose further when Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Shanakiyan Rasamanickam gave SJB Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara the opportunity to raise a follow up question to the question the former had asked. The Government however, accused Mr Bandara of going off topic. An irate Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the Deputy Speaker to suspend sittings and leave if he could not control the situation and was allowing MPs to ask questions that were not related to those listed on the agenda.

Parliamentarians Nalin Bandara and Wasantha Yapa Bandara then approached the chair and engaged in heated exchanges with the Deputy Speaker and Government MPs. Finally exasperated, Deputy Speaker Rajapakse addressed Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa directly.  

“Look at your MPs. MPs like this can even be found in jungles,” he told Mr Premadasa. He then suspended sittings for ten minutes.

It is not just Opposition MPs who have behaved in this manner. There have been enough examples of serious acts of misbehaviour by Government MPs as well. Those from both sides however, usually escape with a mere slap on the wrist or no punishment at all.

The rot has been in effect for years. One was reminded that as many as 60 MPs were named in a report by the Parliamentary Committee which looked into the unruly incidents that occurred inside the chamber during 2018’s Constitutional Crisis. The committee recommended action against all of them, yet not a single one was brought to book. Many of these MPs were re-elected to the current Parliament as well.


SLPP MP says party will field Presidential candidate; three letter puzzle

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Prof. Ranjith Bandara told a media briefing that the SLPP would field a candidate of its own at the next Presidential election.

He claimed the party’s candidate would be one whose first name will consist of three letters in the Sinhala alphabet (akuru thune apekshaka). He refused to elaborate on who this candidate would be.

SLPP Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila, who is now part of the Opposition coalition known as the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, took aim at the comment during a media briefing this week. He pointed out that there was still a long way to go till the next Presidential election.

“A lot can happen during that time. Many new candidates could emerge in the meantime. We urge people to be patient as a new candidate will emerge.”

He pointed out that there were many potential candidates whose first name has only three Sinhala letters.

“Anura, Sajith, Ranil, Wimal and Dullas all have only three letters to their first name. Even I only have three letters in mine. Most of the party leaders in this country have three letter names,” Mr Gammanpila quipped.


India lights up dark side of the moon, what happened to Lanka’s own SupremeSat?

India made history this week by becoming one of the few global powers that have successfully carried out a moon landing. The Indian daily broadsheet The Hindurightfully captioned; “India lights up the dark side of the moon” on its front page highlighting the south polar moon landing of Chandrayaan-3 mission following a failed attempt four years ago.

Sri Lanka’s SupremeSat satellite

What caught the attention of many in the science arena on India’s moon landing is how the most populous nation pulled it off without spending billions that the richer nations spend on such space expeditions. According to Indian media reports, it spent INR 6.5 billion (USD 75 million) on the project.

Speaking of expenditure for space explorations also revived some forgone memories back home where certain influential figures played with the idea of sending Sri Lanka’s first satellite into space.

In November 2012, Sri Lanka launched its first communications satellite in partnership with a Chinese State-owned firm. SupremeSAT, a private entity run by businessman M.R. Manivannan, and came up with a USD 320 million five-year project plan funded under Chinese credit.

The local company secured a USD 215 million credit facility to fund this project from China’s State-owned Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank). Then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Rohitha Rajapaksa was the Chief Technical Director of the company, claiming to have expertise in satellite designs.

Social media meme creators had a blast on the current status of Sri Lanka’s SupremeSat satellite over the past couple of days. One of them graphically portrayed that the satellite is circulating in a different planetary orbit–millions of miles away from home.

Many Sri Lankan politicians meanwhile, took the opportunity to congratulate India on its remarkable achievement. Speaking in Parliament, National Freedom Front Leader Wimal Weerawansa said India was fortunate to be blessed with a patriotic young generation that took pride in the achievement and did not seek to belittle it by saying there were so many poor people without houses and toilets while the country had spent billions on a space mission.


Cut down bath time, every minute counts

Considering heat waves that force many Sri Lankans to stay “cool” these days with multiple baths despite major reservoirs drying up, Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Minister Jeevan Thondaman came up with five-points to save water on X, a social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

One of them caught the attention of many even if it irritated users as the Minister recommended the people should take short baths saying “Every minute counts.”

One user responded saying whether there will be a Cabinet decision in the near future on the duration of a citizen’s bath time.

 


President’s office rejects bank’s request to send officer to Qatar at USD 2200 a month

A request by a State bank to send a Deputy Manager on duty leave to Qatar for two years has been rejected by the Presidential Secretariat owing to the colossal amount of funds that will be used to maintain him at his post.

The request by the bank had noted that expenses borne by the bank for stationing the officer in Qatar would be about USD 2200 (Rs. 726, 000) for a month. This would translate to more than Rs. 17 million over the two year duration of the posting.

Rejecting the request, the President’s office has notified the bank that they should not be spending the hard-earned money of their depositors in this manner. It has also said it was not prepared to entertain similar requests from other State banks either.


On arrival visas for Indians and Chinese, but Lankans don’t receive reciprocity

If Sri Lankans are to travel outside of their country, visa inequality is the big elephant in the room with the recent poor ranking for Sri Lankan passport holders in the global index. Ideally, the visa on arrival facility should be on a reciprocal basis, but it is not the case even within the region.

When the Sectoral Oversight Committee on International Relations met on Tuesday under the Chairmanship of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa, the meeting focused on the possibility of providing on arrival visa facilities for Chinese nationals when they visit Sri Lanka and providing visa applications through online methods in the Mandarin language.

The Committee Chair instructed the officials who were present representing the Immigration and Emigration Department to submit a report to the Committee on the matter at the next meeting.

One MP who is a member of the Committee was heard saying to his colleague after the meeting: “now the visa on arrival for Chinese after Indians. What do our people get in return?”

Nodding to his concerns, his colleague said: “At least we have diplomatic passports, so no worries.”


New film production company gives silver screen a boost

The talk of the town this week was about how a new film production company will be a boost to the local cinema industry as it is one of the severely affected fields due to the economic crisis.

The company–Lyca Productions Lanka, a subsidiary of a South India-based successful film production outfit owned by Sri Lankan-origin Britisher Subaskaran Allirajah–declared it was ready to produce at least six films both in Sinhala and Tamil under the new banner.

Mr Subaskaran was no stranger to local political circles, as some of his recent business deals included acquiring the Jaffna franchise of the Lanka Premier League and the leasing of State-owned Channel Eye which had run into controversies and questions in Parliament.

He was one of the corporate donors to the British Conservative Party and was found to be not paying his dues as corporate tax, according to a report by the UK-based Guardian.

At the star-studded red carpet event held at Taj Samudra on Tuesday, popular cinema artists, actors and cricketers turned up. Among the new movie posters showcased at the event, two caught the attention of the audience; King Ravana and another biopic of a Sri Lankan cricketer.

The new production banner said its films would be distributed in the Middle East, Europe and North America, where a significant number of Sri Lankan diaspora communities reside.

Then, during the week Mr Subaskaran ventured to the Sinhala heartland in the South and laid a foundation stone for a building at a Matara temple for which the monks gave him honours and titles.

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