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UNP, UPFA ENDORSE UNITY GOVERNMENT

The National Government formed by the UNP and the UPFA is intact and will be continued, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and UPFA General Secretary and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera confirmed in Parliament yesterday.

Making a ministerial statement on the request of the Speaker, to clarify on the continuation of the National Government, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe told the House that the Resolution passed on September 3, 2015 to give effect to National Government is still valid.

“We have not rescinded the Resolution. It is still operative. There is no set of circumstances yet that we have to cancel it,” the PM asserted.

Speaking after the PM, the UPFA General Secretary also confirmed Parliament that the UPFA still abides by the initial agreement signed between the two parties to work in a National Government. “We have not withdrawn from it,” he said.

The members in the Government benches thumped their desks expressing their pleasure over the official clarifications on the continuation of the National Government. Upon the request of the PM, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake read out the Resolution passed by Parliament on September 3, 2015 to the House for clarity.

However, Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake and Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena argued that the MoU between the UNP and SLFP which led to the formation of the National Government specifically stated that it was for two years and any extension should have been approved by Parliament. MP Dissanayake argued that the Government violated the Constitution in the last four months by maintaining a Cabinet of Ministers exceeding 30 after the expiration of the MoU.

The PM responding to the argument said the Government acted in line with the provision 46 (4) of the Constitution and signing an MoU between the two parties or producing such a document to Parliament is not mandatory as per the Constitution.

Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faiszer Musthapha pointed out that both parties, who are privy to the agreement, have expressed their desire to continue in National Government and that per se is sufficient in terms of 46 (4) of the Constitution.

“The agreement between the parties could be in writing or oral.Third parties cannot intervene in this matter,” he added.

MP Dinesh Gunawardena maintained that the MoU was the base for the Parliamentary Resolution and therefore any renewal or changes to that document must be informed to Parliament.

Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera pointed out the Resolution passed by Parliament nowhere said that it was valid only for two years.Agreeing to this point MP Dissanayake however said the Resolution was meant to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers from 30 to 48 and the number of Deputy and State Ministers from 40 to 45.

“The Resolution was subsequent to the agreement of the two parties to work in a National Government. In the same manner you read out the Resolution, ask the Secretary General to read out the letter to the Speaker by then UPFA General Secretary late Wiswa Warnapala. It specifically states that the National Government is for two years. President Maithripala Sirisena, who addressed the House soon after the formation of National Government, said that exercise for consensual governance is for two years.

The PM at one time told the House that National Government is limited to two years. If you want to extend it further you must duly inform the House and get its approval,” Dissanayake argued.

The PM responding to the query noted the only document before the House on the day Parliament approved the formation of National Government was the Resolution presented by him.

“An MoU of the two parties is not mandatory and we signed it because this whole exercise was a new experience for us. National Governments existed in the UK Parliament in 1916, 1931 and 1940, but a written document was not available for any of them. That is the tradition,” he clarified.

JO MP Udaya Gammanpila said the absence of written agreement could set a bad precedence that the future PMs could exploit to increase the number of ministers in the guise of a National Government. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya finally stated that he stands by the official positions communicated to the House by the Prime Minister and the UPFA Secretary General on the continuation of National Government.

He said the UPFA, SLFP and UNP have confirmed him that they continue to work in National Government.

The Speaker however said he would look into other pertaining issues raised by the members.

SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake was also present in the House.