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Harsha de Silva appointed new COPF chairman

Sri Lanka main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harsha de Silva has been appointed as chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Public Finance (COPF) following a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, de Silva’s office confirmed.

The development follows months of controversy around the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) allegedly blocking de Silva’s appointment to the post, despite the president having agreed to it.

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premdasa told parliament on May 25 that the president has conveyed to SJB legislators de Silva and Kabir Hashim at a meeting attended by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha that he is agreeable to the appointment.

Responding to Premadasa, Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga said while the president had indeed agreed to de Silva’s appointment, government MPs in the COPF had expressed concern.

For weeks, the SJB and other opposition groups have been crying foul over the government’s refusal to appoint the economist-turned-politician as COPF chair. An allegedly surreptitious attempt to have de Silva’s SJB colleague Mayantha Dissanayake came a cropper after Dissanayake, who had initially accepted the position, resigned mere days later. Government MPs have claimed that the SJB had wanted Dissanayake to step down due to internal rifts in the party.

For his part, de Silva has said the government has been violating parliamentary procedures and governance by running the committee without a chairman since January.

On May 12, the main opposition questioned the legality of raising a ceiling on Treasury bills to 6,000 billion rupees from 5,000 billion over dispute over the committee chairmanship.