Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is expected to announce his decision on appointing a parliamentary committee to assess the suitability of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and nearly 30 other MPs to continue as lawmakers.
Rajapaksa and a group of MPs supporting him obtained membership with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, a day after President Maithripala Sirisena announced a General Election.
After Speaker Karu Jayasuriya recognised Rajapaksa as the Opposition Leader today, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiram raised a legal point saying Rajapaksa was not suitable to continue as an MP as he was no longer a member of the party from he was elected in August 2015. Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella also expressed similar views.
Both parties will present written submissions to the Speaker on the matter this week.
Rajapaksa’s new position, however, will remain unchanged until the committee reports back to the Speaker.
Prior to announcing Rajapaksa’s appointment as the Opposition Leader, Jayasuriya had spoken to the outgoing Leader of the Opposition, R. Sampanthan, saying “After all that you have done for us, removing you would seem like betrayal. You saved us but we are taking away from you what you have.”
“No,” replied Sampanthan, “This is a matter of law. I did the lawful thing. You too must do the lawful thing.”
Rajapaksa who had been privately intimated was also gracious, telling Sampanthan to take two weeks vacating the Leader of the Opposition’s Offices and living quarters. Sampanthan had replied that a day is sufficient and Rajapaksa may move in the day after the next.
Such moving out is easy for the abstemious Sampanthan. Said a person familiar with procedures that the Leader of the Opposition gets a fleet of 5 cars and unlimited fuel, but Sampanthan who eats every day the same breakfast of two slices of toast and a bull’s-eye, asked only for one car and used hardly any fuel. Entitled to 50 employees and special security, he had 7 persons working for him and the normal security detail of a Member of Parliament.
However, when the Speaker’s decision was announced in Parliament, Colombo Telegraph learns that M.A. Sumanthiran had made the observation that 49 members of Parliament (including Rajapaksa himself) who had contested on the SLFP ticket had in writing resigned their membership when switching to Rajapaksa’s camp during the failed parliamentary coup. Contends Sumanthiran that under the constitution (Section 99(13(a)) all 49 had vacated their seats a month after the cross-over. Further it was held that when the President who heads the SLFP holds three portfolios, it is not possible for Rajapaksa to claim to be in opposition even if he claims SLFP membership. Accordingly the contention is that the President too has to resign his portfolios.