Heated debate in p’ment over COPE media coverage

Opposition lawmakers protest constitutional amendments in Sri Lanka on Sep 23, 2020

ECONOMYNEXT – A heated debate ensued in Sri Lanka’s parliament this morning after opposition lawmaker S M Marikkar accused the government of trying to close proceedings of the new Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) to the media.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP claimed the government is attempting to release an edited version of the COPE proceedings to the media in the form of a press release.

The people have a right to know what transpired in government institutes between 2015 and 2020, said Marikkar who was a member of the previous government during that period.

The government has no reason to close COPE proceedings to the media since any revelations made will pertain to the activities of the previous administration, he added.

SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, meanwhile, recalled that the Yahapalana government opened the parliamentary committee proceedings, including COPE and the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) to the media.

Responding to the opposition remarks, chief government whip Johnston Fernando charged that the opening of parliamentary committees to the media was used to attack former President Maithripala Sirisena and his allies. Members of the previous COPE, claimed Fernando, used their powers to discredit state officials in the interest of their own political agendas.

Agreeing that opening the COPE proceedings to the media would also be in the interest of the government as it would expose “all the corruption and fraud” that took place from 2015 onward, the Kurunegala district MP said television stations need to be ethical and not edit the footage to fit their biases.

“We have taken this decision in order to safeguard the dignity of state officials. This government has no interest in media theatrics,” he said.

SJB MP Nalin Bandara said that while newly appointed COPE Chairman Prof Charitha Herath had promised to announce  his decision regarding media coverage next week, the government has already made up its mind and has influenced the new chairman.

Meanwhile, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said a final decision on the matter must be taken up at the next party leaders’ meeting. (Colombo/Sep23/2020)

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