Speaker tables names of Watchdog Committee members

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday tabled the names of members appointed to Parliamentary Watchdog Committees, the COPE, COPA and Public Finance Committee, for the new session of Parliament. Only slight changes have been done in the three committees.

The Joint Opposition and the JVP expressed their opposition for re-appointing the four Parliamentarians, who made controversial phone calls to Perpetual Treasuries beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, to the COPE again. The members of COPE remain the same except that MP Weerakumara Dissanayake, who crossed over to Government from the JO, has been replaced with MP Jayantha Samaraweera to represent the JO.

JO MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake brought to the attention of the House that it was improper to re-appoint the MPs found to have made phone calls to Aloysius while the COPE probe on the Treasury Bonds was on. “We have made a complaint against them at the Bribery Commission and investigations are going on. Therefore, it is not suitable to re-appoint them,” MP Aluthgamage said.

The Speaker said the JO’s concern was communicated at the Party Leaders’ Meeting, but the Government was of the opinion that those members can continue, as allegations against them have not yet been proved. “If we are to remove all the members with allegations, then we will have to remove many. The Government’s stance was that allegations should have been proved and I cannot influence the decisions of the Government,” the Speaker said. MP Dissanayake pointed out that COPE should be rid of tainted individuals, but this has not been the case throughout history.

MP Susil Premajayantha on behalf of the SLFP Group of 16 in the Opposition requested from the Speaker to reconsider the appointments to the Committees stating that their group has not been given fair representation in them. The Speaker said all appointments were made collectively at the Party Leaders’ Meetings and that he did not make arbitrary decisions at any time.

MP Udaya Gammanpila has replaced Prasanna Ranatunga in the Committee On Public Accounts (COPA) while the other members remain unchanged. MPs Bimal Rathnayake and Shehan Semasinghe have been appointed to the Committee on Public Finance replacing MPs Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Sunil Handunnetti.

The COPE and COPA comprises of 26 members and Public Finance Committee comprises of 19 members. The Chairmen of these committees will be agreed upon on their first meeting. At the previous Parliamentary session, JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti headed the COPE, Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna headed the COPA and TNA MP M.A.Sumanthiran headed the Public Finance Committee. It has been proposed to continue with the same Chairmen