By Saman Indrajith
Parliament sittings were limited to about 40 minutes yesterday as the House decided to postpone indefinitely the debate on the Bond Commission and PRECIFAC reports due to non-availability of English or Tamil translations of the PRECIFAC report.
The decision was taken after TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran brought to the notice of the House that the party MPs would not be able to participate in the debate as the PRECIFAC report was available only in Sinhala even up to yesterday.
The adjournment debate on the two reports was a continuation from February 6. As Sumanthiran was explaining to the House the language issue faced by them, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara asked him to speak on the Bond report which was available in English. This remark developed into a heated exchange between the two MPs.
MP Sumanthiran said: “Why are you asking us to speak only on one report? Why are you worried about the PRECIFAC report? I want to speak on that as well. You are worried about us making references to PRECIFAC report. You were the Minister of National Languages in the previous government. You should have demanded that the reports be made available in both national languages.”
“You are speaking unnecessarily. My point is that we have come ready to speak and the debate must go on,” Nananakkara retorted.
“I am not speaking unnecessarily. I cannot even understand if somebody refers to something in the PRECIFAC report. I cannot follow it. Is that the way you want me to participate in a debate? Having been the Minister of National Languages, and having gone around the world saying all kinds of things, you are suggesting that I should continue to sit here in a debate where things are referred to in a language that I cannot read.”
Intervening at this point Speaker Karu Jayasuriya apologised for not having the Tamil and English translations ready. “There are about 8,000 pages in that report. We have asked the authorities concerned to get it translated and the Official Languages Department is working on it. There is a point in what MP Sumanthiran says, but I leave it to the House to decide,” said the Speaker asked the opinion of Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella on the matter.
Kiriella proposed to postpone the debate observing that legally and technically it was wrong to proceed with the debate without providing the translations. At this point MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena noted the original agreement was to go ahead with the debate even in the absence of Sinhala and Tamil translations if the English copy was available. The Speaker clarified that not even the English copy of the PRECIFAC report was ready yet.
Thereafter the Speaker with the consent of the House postponed the debate and adjourned the sittings till 1pm today. The attendance of MPs was also very poor yesterday and many members whose questions were included in the Order Paper were not present to raise their oral questions.