The Eighth Parliament of Sri Lanka on Tuesday came into being with President Maithripala Sirisena’s call for promoting reconciliation and co-existence and developing the political culture of consensus in the country.
On August 17, the island-nation went to the parliamentary polls and the United National Party (UNP) emerged as the single largest party with 106 seats. On August 21, the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister and the same day, the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), led by Mr Sirisena, entered into an agreement to form a national government that would last at least two years.
Taking bold decisions
In his address to the Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, the President said the country had to take “bold political decisions” on the issue of reconciliation. “It is up to us to take the initiative in this regard,” Mr. Sirisena said.
The new government would give importance to the task of accomplishing expeditious economic progress in the conflict-hit regions of the Northern and the Eastern provinces, besides adjoining areas.
Referring to the prevalence of the political culture of confrontation, the President said that one principal party (SLFP) had ruled the country for 35 years and another (UNP) for 32 years. Calling upon the newly-elected Members of Parliament to support the government’s efforts towards developing the new political culture, he said that while framing a common plan of action, features of manifestoes of four parties – the UNP, the SLFP (which has 95 members); the Tamil National Alliance (16 members) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (six members) would be incorporated along with those of his manifesto prepared at the time of Presidential elections in January.
Mr. Sirisena also assured the House that electoral reforms, acceptable to all the parties and the civil society, would be adopted.
In the area of foreign affairs, the government would focus on Asia, which was, he said, expected to register a high level of economic growth in the years to come. In the last eight months, the country’s ties with other countries had improved to such an extent that its pride and glory among the comity of nations had been restored, the President added
Earlier, in the day, the veteran parliamentarian and senior UNP leader, Karu Jayasuriya, was elected Speaker of the Parliament unanimously. Thilanga Sumathipala of the SLFP became Deputy Speaker. UNP leaders, Lakshman Kiriella and Gayantha Karunatillake, were appointed Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip respectively. The TNA’s Member of Parliament from Vanni, Selvam Adaikalanathan, was made Deputy Chairman of Committees.(The Hindu)