Chandima raises privilege issue over Weerasekera’s letter to State Defence Minister



MP Chandima Weerakkody

slams colleague over criticism of US envoy’s conduct

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Chandima Weerakkody has lashed out at fellow ruling party MP and Chairman of Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security Sarath Weerasekera for the latter’s recent comment on US Ambassador Julie Chung’s conduct in respect of last year’s popular uprising which led to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster.

Attorney-at-law Weerakkody, who is also a member of the national security Sectoral Oversight Committee, has asked Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to take punitive action against Weerasekera, who served as Public Security Minister during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidency.

Addressing parliament on 22 Nov., MP Weerakkody said unfounded accusations against the US ambassador could cause unnecessary problems. He was referring to a statement issued by MP Weerasekera, in his capacity as Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee subsequent to a meeting chaired by him on the afternoon of 05. Oct. 2023.

Declaring that the foreign policy is the prerogative of the President, the former yahapalana minister has asked whether Weerasekera could comment on sensitive matters without consulting Sectoral Oversight Committees on foreign and justice ministries.

Pointing out that the public had lost faith in parliament, MP Jayakody has urged Speaker Abeywardena to take action without further delay or be prepared to face the consequences. The SLFPer also explained how the continuing crisis in the parliamentary watchdog Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) embroiled in the SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket) controversy caused unprecedented deterioration of public confidence in parliament.

MP Weerakkody has stressed the responsibility on the part of parliament to ensure that the Sectoral Oversight Committee adheres to Standing Orders 111. According to him, MP Weerasekera, has violated parliamentary privileges of other members of the Sectoral Oversight Committee by writing to State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon without taking their approval. The MP has raised the issue at hand twice in parliament on Nov 10 and Nov 22.MP Weerakkody on Saturday (25) told The Island that he expected Speaker Abeywardena to deal with MP Weerasekera firmly.

“MP Weerasekera cannot under any circumstances conduct the affairs of the Sectoral Oversight Committee in violation of the Standing Orders. The former minister must realise that he is not above Parliament,” MP Weerakkody said, adding that the matter raised by him had been referred to the privileges committee.

Responding to another query, MP Weerakkody said that he had brought to the notice of parliament lawmaker Weerasekera’s comments on the ongoing Rambukkana incidents during the protest campaign where one person died in police shooting. Referring to a statement issued by senior Attorney–at–Law Prasantha Lal De Alwis PC, in response to MP Weerasekera’s letter to State Defence Minister, Weerakkody has told parliament that the Chairman’s action reflected badly the Sectoral Oversight Committee.

Lawyer Alwis has represented a committee that looked into the Rambukkana incidents on 19 April 2022. The expert committee consisted of former retired High Court Judge K. H. Sumathipala, former retired High Court Judge. Sudath N. Gopallawa, former retired Government Analyst Dr. W. D. S. Gunathilake, senior Attorney–at–Law Prasantha Lal De Alwis PC, senior Attorney–at–Law Amal Randeniya, Consultant Judicial Medical Officer Dr. Channa Perera, Engineer S. Suriyaarachchi (University of Moratuwa), and Technical Officer A.M.S Nilan (University of Moratuwa).

Asked whether he was confident of parliament adopting remedial measures, MP Weerakkody said that the House couldn’t ignore how such actions deteriorated parliamentary standards. How could one person used Sectoral Oversight Committee he chaired to pursue a personal agenda at the expense of the government and parliament. Therefore, it would be the Speaker’s responsibility to reign in the former Minister.

Earlier, Weerasekera’s report on proposed privatisation of Sri Lanka Telecom caused controversy when the President’s Media Division (PMD) hit back at the Chairman.