Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, while asserting that the National Freedom Front (NFF) could not be recognized as a separate party in Parliament, said NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa's move to reject the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa was commendable.
The Prime Minister added that Members of the National Freedom Front could however, sit as independent MPs in Parliament. He made these remarks in response to demands made......by the NFF leader to the effect that the NFF be recognized as a separate political party and be awarded the same rights and privileges entitled to a political party in Parliament.
MP Weerawansa: "We ask the Speaker to enable the NFF members to be recognized as a separate party in Parliament. There are five NFF members and, since April 05 last year, we have been demanding this right. It could be done because there is already a precedent set for such recognition. With the facts at hand, the Speaker could on his own decide whether a group of MPs in the opposition could be recognized or not as an independent group and grant them their rights. The Speaker is however delaying it. I kindly request the Speaker, in the name of democracy, to recognize our five MPs as a group distinctly separate from the UPFA."
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya: "Yesterday I clearly said that I need time to study this issue and promised that I would take necessary action. I need to discuss this issue with other party leaders. There are MPs from your party, from the joint Opposition and from the UPFA. I have to discuss this with all of them."
MP Weerawansa: "I raised the same issue on April 5, 2016 after conveying our position in a letter to the Speaker. Since then a considerable period of time has passed. I do not know how long this Parliament could keep depriving us of our rights. Therefore, you should delay no more on this issue. We have met and discussed this matter with the UPFA members and they said they have nothing against our decision."
Speaker Jaysuriya: "I will come to a decision as early as possible."
MP Weerawansa: "This House is not functioning objectively. It is not fair by some parties. There is no freedom. On the one hand the government keeps postponing elections, while on the other hand minor parties are not given their rights."
Leader of the House, Highways and Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella: "Parliament cannot recognize parties which did not contest the elections. The Speaker will have to consider under which party Weerawansa and his MPs are elected to this House."
MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena: "The NFF is not a constituent member of the UPFA. The Communist Party and the NFF are not governed by the constitution of the UPFA."
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: "I thank MP Dinesh Gunawardena. He said that MP Weerawansa's NFF is not a party within the UPFA. So the NFF members could break ties with the UPFA and act as independent MPs. They could not be recognized as a single party but as five independent MPs. No one can prevent them deciding to sit as independent MPs. In any case, I would thank MP Weerawansa too for his decision to break ties with the UPFA and reject the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa to make this decision."
UNP MP Nalin Bandara: "I think there are around 50 parties here in Parliament. If each of them start forming groups of five and demand the rights of separate parties, then we will not be able to do any work here."
MP Weerawansa: "We are an independent group. The Elections Commissioner too has recognized us as a separate political party.
I must also say that the Joint Opposition will continue its struggle and continue under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa."
Leader of the House: "Now he says he will continue to do politics under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa. That means they have not separated."
Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera: "In this Parliament there are recognized political parties. These are the ones which submitted nominations for the last general elections as separate parties. Those who formed alliances and contested under a single symbol to win seats in Parliament cannot claim recognition as political parties. Therefore, we cannot recognize MP Weerwansa's NFF as a separate party."
The Speaker: "There is no need to hold a debate on this issue. I will do what is necessary."
MP Weerawansa: "Lakshman Kiriella is an attorney. Ajith P. Perera is a qualified lawyer and also teaches law. There are many legal luminaries on their side but people with such knowledge of the law and justice fail to give us our rights. Though we have contested under the UPFA, we are a party recognized by the Elections Commissioner. Just because we support the Joint Opposition of Mahinda Rajapaksa, you cannot deprive us of our rights."
MP Chandrasiri Gajadheera: "There have been similar precedents. On those occasions the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, the Communist Party and JVP were recognized as separate parties."