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Govt. causes split in SJB by appointing Mayantha as COPF head instead of Harsha


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has been divided over the appointment of its National List MP Mayantha Dissanayake as the Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF).The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government yesterday (23) picked Dissanayake in spite of Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella on behalf of the Opposition proposing Dr. Harsha de Silva as the COPF’s head.

Prorogation of parliament for the second time within seven months by President Ranil Wickremesinghe resulted in the dissolution of three watchdog committees namely COPF, COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises)

Alleging that the government got rid of him as he in his capacity as COPF Chairman opposed corruption at every level, an irate lawmaker de Silva told The Island that he expected SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the entire opposition to take up the issue.

The economist said that depending on the response of the SJB leader and the Opposition the matter would be settled before what he called the public court.The former UNPer alleged that his proposal to set up a casino regulatory authority made by him in his previous capacity as COPF Chairman and criticism of Sri Lanka’s premier investment promotion agency the Board of Investment (BoI) prompted the government to force him out of the watchdog committee.

Lawmaker de Silva vowed to defeat what he called the gang of thieves. MP Mayantha Dissanayake didn’t answer his hand phone. Dissanayake is among seven SJB National List MPs in the current parliament. One of them, Diana Gamage has switched allegiance to President Ranil Wuckremesinghe and was rewarded with a State Ministry.

Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (23) told parliament that the Committee of Selection chose Mayantha Dissanayake. Minister Ranatunga alleged that the Opposition was making an attempt to mislead the public over this issue.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena heads the 11-member Committee of Selection. Responding to Minister Ranatunga, MP de Silva said that the Opposition proposed him as the Chairman of COPF the day before yesterday.

De Silva said: “Chief Opposition Whip told him that Speaker Abeywardena endorsed his nomination. But, the Committee of Selection met again. The Opposition again proposed me as the head of COPF but government members of the Committee of Selection proposed Mayantha Dissanayake.”

MP de Silva said that the government group exploited the situation to appoint a person of their choice.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem who is also a member of the Committee of Selection declared that Dr. de Silva was the most qualified person to serve as the COPF head. Attorney-at-law Hakeem said that such tactics employed by the government would result in public losing confidence in the vital committee. Lawmaker Hakeem said that in terms of the Standing Orders the Committee of Selection should accept the MP nominated by the Opposition. The MP alleged that the government exploited its majority in the Committee of Selection.

The SLMC contested the last general election under the SJB ticket. SJB MP Asoka Abeysinghe alleged that the government couldn’t stomach his colleague Dr de Silva’s role as the COPF head. Therefore, the government conspired to get rid of him, the Kurunegala District MP alleged.

Gampaha District SJB MP Harshana Rajakaruna alleged that the government wanted to cause division hence the move to deprive Dr. de Silva of the top post.

Minister Ranatunga insisted that the appointment of Mayantha Dissanayake was in line with the Standing Orders. The SLPP heavyweight said that the Standing Orders referred to the appointment of an Opposition MP. There couldn’t be any issue as Mayantha Dissanayake was an Opposition MP. MP Rajakaruna emphasised that the nomination should be made by the Opposition not government members.

Minister Ranatunga said that members of the Committee of Selection once appointed to that body shouldn’t be differentiated as Opposition and Government members.

Leader of the House Susil Premjayantha endorsed the position taken up by Minister Ranatunga. Premjayanth did so in responding to MP Rajakaruna’s query whether he accepted Mayantha Dissanayake’s appointment.

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