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Parliament postpones debate on Bond and PRECIFAC reports

Parliament sittings were confined to about 40 minutes yesterday as the House decided to postpone the debate on the Bond Commission and PRECIFAC reports due to the non-availability of English or Tamil translations of the PRECIFAC report.

The decision was after TNA MP M.A.Sumanthiran brought to the notice of the House that the TNA MPs would not be able to participate in the debate as the PRECIFAC report was available only in Sinhala even as at yesterday.

The adjournment debate on the two reports was a continuation from February 6. As MP Sumanthiran was explaining the House on the language issue faced by them, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara suggested that he speak on the Bond report which was available in English. This remark developed into a heated exchange of words between the two MPs.

“Why are you insisting us to speak only on one report? Why are you worried about the PRECIFAC report? I wish to speak on that as well. You are worried about us making references to the PRECIFAC report. You were the Minister of National Languages in the previous Government. You should have been protesting in agreement with me that before a debate begins reports must be available in both the national languages,” Sumanthiran told Nanayakkara.

“You are speaking unnecessarily. My point is that we have come ready to speak and the debate must go on,” Nanayakkara retorted to Sumanthiran.

“I am not speaking unnecessarily. I cannot even understand if somebody refers to something in the PRECIFAC report. I cannot follow it. Is that the way you want me to participate in a debate? Having being the Minister of National Languages, and having gone around the world saying all kinds of things, you are suggesting that I should continue to sit here in a debate where things are referred to in a language that I cannot read. Shameful,” Sumanthiran blasted Nanayakkara.

Intervening at this point, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya apologized for not having the Tamil and English translations ready. “There are about 8,000 pages in that report. We have asked the authorities to get this translation and the Official Languages Department is working on it. There is a point in what Sumanthiran MP says, but I leave it to the House to decide,” said the Speaker asking the opinion of Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella on the matter. Kiriella proposed to postpone the debate observing that legally and technically it was wrong to proceed on the debate without providing the translations.

At this point MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena noted the original agreement was to go ahead with the debate even in the absence of Sinhala and Tamil translations if the English copy was is available. The Speaker clarified that not even the English copy of the PRECIFAC report was ready yet. Thereafter, the Speaker with the consent of the House postponed the debate and adjourned the sittings till 1pm today. The attendance of MPs was also very poor yesterday and many members whose questions were included in the Order Paper were not present to raise their oral questions.