The opening of Second Session of Eighth Parliament was marked by solemn ceremony attended by foreign delegates, religious leaders, Provincial Governors, the Attorney General, tri-force commanders and the IGP.President Maithripala Sirisena arrived in Parliament complex with First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena in a motorcade at around 2 pm. They were formerly welcomed on the red carpet by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake. The President was accorded a 21 Gun Salute by the Tri-forces. After the national anthem was sung ‘Jaya Mangala Gatha’ recital was held at the main entrance to Parliament.

Following the Quorum bell, the President assumed the Speaker’s Chair and delivered his Policy Statement formerly opening the new session of Parliament.

At the end of his speech, the President adjourned the sittings till 1 pm today. The ceremonial sitting was followed by a tea party hosted by Speaker Jayasuriya and attended by the Prime Minister, Government MPs, JVP and TNA MPs and other distinguished guests.

The first session of Eighth Parliament commenced on September 1, 2015 and ended on April 12, 2018. The Judicature Amendment Bill, which aims to set up a permanent High Court at bar to expedite corruption cases, is to be taken up today as the first business of second session. A full-day debate on the President’s policy statement is scheduled on Thursday.

The Sixteen SLFP MPs who broke ranks with the Government yesterday, crossed the well of the Parliament and took seat on Opposition benches. As the quorum bell went off at 2.10 pm, former Ministers Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, crossed the aisle amidst the cheers of the Joint Opposition Members.

They were joined by S B Dissanayake, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, T B Ekanayake, John Seneviratne, Sumedha Jayasena, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Dilan Perera, Lakshman Wasantha Perera, Dr Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tharanath Basnayake, Susantha Punchinilame, Chandima Weerakkody, Anuradha Jayaratne, and Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala.

JO members led by Dinesh Gunawardena, thumped their desks in welcoming the group, while the Government back benchers booed and jeered. Notably, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa were absent in the House.

Out of the 16 MPs, MPs S B Dissanayake, John Seneviratne and Sumedha Jayasena received front row seats in the Opposition. Seating arrangements in the Government had also changed with Ministers Vajira Abeywardena, Mahinda Samaraweera and Thilak Marapana receiving front row seats along with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Lakshman Kiriella, Mangala Samaraweera, Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Rauf Hakeem, Gayantha Karunathilake, Mano Ganesan, Malik Samarawickrama, John Amaratunga, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dr Sarath Amunugama, Sajith Premadasa, Rishad Bathiudeen and Ven. Rathana Thera. Nearly 15 MPs from the Government side including Ven. Rathana Thera were absent at the inaugural session.