Esala festival on a grand scale – PM

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while thanking all those who contributed to celebrating the Poson festival on a grand scale yesterday said the upcoming Esala festival should be celebrated in a similar manner.The Prime Minister in a statement also thanked the Maha Sangha, Ministers, Government officials, Security agencies, Principals, Public and private institutions for their contribution in making the Poson festival a success.He made special mention on the leadership given by the members of Maha Sangha to make this annual event a success.“I made a request to all to celebrate the Poson festival on a grand scale this year while giving pride of place to religious activities on June 5, after having several rounds of discussions with the Maha Sangha of the three Chapters,” the Prime Minister said.

He said that the Poson festival was celebrated on a grand scale around the country and especially in areas where it received less prominence in the past.“The Esala Festival should also be celebrated on a grand scale too. I hope to have discussions with the Chief Prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and the Diyawadana Nilame in this regard,” the Prime Minister said.
Foreign diplomats briefed about country’s security situation – Speaker
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya explained that foreign diplomats were invited by him to Parliament with the intention of explaining the current situation in the country and putting to rest their concerns regarding the country’s security. He said this in Parliament yesterday, in response to a question raised by Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena.
“Muslim diplomats and several Muslim countries issued a statement with regard to the situation that arose in the country. Hence, I invited several diplomats from Muslim countries and briefed them on the situation in the country. The IGP and several Police personnel were also present on this occasion. It was good that we did this because otherwise a huge campaign was going to take place against our country. Several days earlier, even the EU expressed concern regarding the situation in the country. These Ambassadors of Muslim countries were briefed on the current situation as they were concerned. They were called to assure them that the current situation in the country has returned to normal,” the Speaker said.
The IGP was also brought for this meeting, which is also acceptable, but even the Chief of Intelligence of the country was also present at this meeting and he was seen seated and discussing intelligence information. How come no one adviced you not to do such things? The country’s Intelligence Chief who knows all the secrets and very important intelligence investigations that are on, was summoned to your official residence along with the IGP. In bringing the Intelligence Chief in front of foreign dignitaries is not a procedure that has been adopted by any other Speaker. I would like you to clarify these two issues,” he said.
However, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya responded that this is wrong as the meeting was not held at his official residence, but was held in Parliament.Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena sought permission from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to seek a clarification regarding Prasad Kariyawasam who is a diplomat and the former Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is currently the International Affairs Adviser to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya while being paid by the US Government. He also served as the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States.
Dinesh Gunawardena retorted, “It is questionable when a person is being paid by a foreign government and is working for Parliament. We have a right to question this. If there is a problem in payment, then have it passed by Parliament. Why are you engaging a former Foreign Ministry Secretary as your advisor? There is an IPU which spends enough money on anyone for advice. Similarly, there is the CPA, the SAARC and all of us pay for that.”
Pitching in during the exchange of words between the Speaker and MP Dinesh Gunawardena, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “This prestigious Parliament is an independent institution. Hence, if any advisor is being paid by Parliament there is no problem. But the issue here is that a person is being paid by another country and he is serving our Parliament. What MP Gunawardena is pointing out is that no one can be employed by Parliament when he is being paid by another country. If his services are required, make some mechanism where he is paid by this Parliament. Otherwise, a wrong notion would spread among the public that this parliament is being manipulated by foreign entities.”