For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
August 19, 2010,
Govt. defends The Island
by Saman Indrajith
Chief Opposition whip MP John Amaratunga, raising a privilege issue in Parliament yesterday, demanded that the Speaker summon ‘The Island’ and other newspapers which published a statement made by ruling party MP A. H. M. Azwer.
Full text of the statement made by MP Amaratunga: I wish to raise a privilege matter under Standing Firstly, the Hon. Member had blatantly violated Standing Order too by interrupting parliamentary proceedings to make an announcement that, “This House should not be used for nefarious activities” claiming that an Opposition Member was misbehaving indecently in the Opposition Leader’s room.
Secondly leaving apart the conduct of an ordinary Member this is was very serious accusation on the Leader of the Opposition tantamount to willfully trying to tarnish the image of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition. Soon after this accusation was made you can remember that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, who was at the time in his office sitting at his desk, rushed to the Chamber and refuted the accusation of Hon. A. H. M. Azwer stating that at no instance was his room given to any Member of the Opposition to hold meetings in his absence. Therefore, this is a blatant lie uttered by Hon. Azwer in the guise of raising a point of order.
Furthermore, this incident has been given wide coverage in the media for example the ‘Island’ newspaper of Thursday 19th August (today) carries a new item in the first page under the caption, “Azwer say Opposition M.P. misbehaves in Parliament”. This is an attempt to tarnish the image of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition in the eyes of the people as a national leader. Also the newsapapers had no right to publish this ‘statement’ of Hon. Azwer which amounted to the violaion of standing orders and should be called upon to appear before the Privileges Committee to show cause as to why they published this news items without due permission of the Hon. Speaker.
If at all occurrences of this nature had in fact taken place it is the duty whoever the Hon. Member, is to place it before the House in the proper manner in the form of a Substantive Motion.
This whole issue has been willfully and intentionally fabricated and concocted by Hon. Azwer to bring discredit to the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and to tarnish his image. This is a very serious allegation where not only Hon. Azwer had discredited the Hon. Leader of the Opposition but also had misled this August Assembly.
Therefore, it is unanimous view of the Opposition that strong cognition should be taken regarding this grave situation pertaining to Parliamentary Privileges of an Honourable Member of Parliament and that too when it happens to be the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, steps should be taken against Hon. A. H. M. Azwer for his most disgraceful and unbecoming conduct as a Hon. Member of this House to inquire into this matter and take whatever action deemed necessary against this Member for violating all norms of Parliamentary privileges.
Leader of the House, Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that ‘The Island’ had done nothing wrong and rejected the privilege issue raised by the opposition MP.
He said that MP Azwer had made the statement in question with the permission of the Deputy Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker assured that he would look into the issue raised by MP Azwer.
Therefore, you cannot accuse MP Azwer of any wrong doing. The Island had reported what occurred in the House and they had not done anything wrong. It is the duty of the paper to report what happens in the House.
The report carried in ‘The Island’ was accurate and just.
Therefore, you cannot demand any action against the paper,” the Minister said.