a job of work in House gone quiet
By our lobby correspondent Chandani Kirinde
All was pretty quiet within the Chambers of Parliament
during its sessions last week, with four legal amendments being taken
up for debate. But news of a visit by President Chandrika Kumaratunga
and the Maha Nayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter Ven Udugama Sri Buddharakkitha
to the legislature, created a buzz outside the Chambers.
had met with PA Parliamentarians in Parliament on Wednesday, while
the Maha Nayaka visited the House on Thursday to meet with Buddha
Sasana Minister W.J.M. Lokubandara. The Chief Thero along with four
others partook their meals in a lunch room of the Parliament and
invoked blessings on those present.
Maybe the good
behaviour of the MPs was due to the fact that Speaker Joseph Michael
Perera informed the House that all four cameras within the Chambers
were operational. For several months only one camera which was pointing
in the direction of the Speaker had been working.
This came to
light when television footages of the unruly incidents in the Chambers
in late July, showed only a segment of it.
to the Factories Ordinance to increase the overtime work entitlement
for women from the present 100 hours a year to 60 hours a month
was introduced by Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. "We
have to bring our laws in line with laws of other countries. This
will benefit women as well as the country," the minister said
introducing the amendments.
who followed, paid tribute to the women workers of the country and
their contribution to the country's economy but none of the women
MPs bothered to speak on the matter nor on another amendment that
was brought to the Civil Procedure Code to repeal the provision
that debars married women from representing a minor in judicial
proceedings. In a Parliament which has less than ten women legislatures
among its 225 members, why none of them could stand up and speak
on the plight of countless women workers who undergo tremendous
hardships in their workplaces cannot be understood.
Fernandopulle spoke in particular of the women working in the free
trade zones in the countries. "They work for 10 - 15 years
and leave to get married and raise children but they have no income
after they leave. Some form of a pension must be started for them,"
he suggested. Mr. Fernandopulle also said that many factory owners
were defaulting in the payment of EPF and ETF funds and closing
factories when ever they chose to, leaving many workers stranded.
Nimal Siripala De Silva said the opposition too supported laws that
make the rights of women equal to that of men as women have surpassed
men in many achievements.
Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the Bail (Amendment) Bill
too were debated and passed.
The first Bill
will provide for Sri Lanka to exchange information regarding criminal
matters with all countries within the Commonwealth as well as several
other countries. The second Bill will prevent the granting of bail
by the Magistrates Court for a number of offences including homicide,
rape, sexual exploitation and attempted murder.
representing Tamil parties said they would not support the Bail
amendment Bill as it had ignored the right to bail of those detained
under the PTA. "No bail is allowed if you are held under the
PTA. This rigorous provision must be repealed immediately even if
the PTA is not abolished soon," TULF lawmaker R.Sampanthan
of the SLMC did not touch on any of the Bills under debate but instead
focused on the hardships the Muslims were facing in the east of
the country. Another of his colleagues H.M.H. Harees too delivered
emotional speech calling for respect for the rights of the Muslims.
Affairs Minister A.H.M.Azwar who spoke on almost every subject under
discussion helped liven up the lacklustre debates in his own inimitable
style although Justice Minister W.J.M.Lokubandara who introduced
three of the amendments too said that there was not very much to
debate in them. The Bail (Amendment) Bill had infact been debated
and passed just prior to the dissolution of Parliament late last
year but had to be re-introduced as the speaker could not sign that
Bill once the dissolution took effect.
opposition speakers inferred that the Bail amendment had been brought
to put their supporters in jail and keep them there without bail,
Defence Minister Tilak Marapana said the provision of appealing
to the High Court has been included in the Bill. "The non bailable
offences are serious crimes such as rape and murder and I am sure
none of the PA members or their supporters would be involved in
those kinds of acts," he said.
why such similar bills cannot be debated simultaneously and passed
in a day, without sittings being prolonged . After all the millions
spent on the daily running of Parliament are the tax payers money.