Government whip and Minister Johnston Fernando said in Parliament today (23) that it has been decided not to open the meetings of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) to the media in future.
He said that the Yahapalana Government used it to accomplish their political agendas and they have no intention to re-open the COPE to the media like the previous government did.
This decision was taken at a meeting with party leaders, the minister said.
He also said,
“It was used to promote the political goals of the former government. It is good for us too. Those are your crimes that will be exposed if we do the same like you. But there should be morality. This decision has been taken in a way which will prevail the dignity of government officials and the people who held various positions. We are not going to put up unnecessary media shows like you did. Your actions were rejected by a majority of 2/3 in history. We do not wish to resume that denial”
However, MP Nalin Bandara objected. He said that the decision should be taken by the President of COPE Prof. Charitha Herath and this had a direct impact on him.
MP Nalin Bandara also added, “I’m a member of the COPE. Minister Johnston says that they have decided not to reveal COPE to the media. But the COPE Chairman decided that he would give that decision next week. Government or any other party should not be taking decisions on COPE on his behalf. Minister Johnston is saying that they’re not implementing the decision taken by Prof. Charitha Herath which clarifies the whole situation. They are making decisions on their own.”
Reiterating this, Mr. Johnston Fernando said that this is a collective decision taken by the party leaders.
“Hon. Speaker, this is a decision we came to after discussing it at the party leader’s meeting. Former Minister Lakshman Kiriella is aware of this. Nalin Bandara knows nothing as he’s not in it. It takes time to get to such a position.” Johnston Fernando said.
There were many suggestions that the COPE should be opened to the media, after the Yahapalana government came to power.
MP Sunil Hadunnetti proposed that the COPE should be opened to the media and the decision confirming it was announced to the Parliament by the Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on 8th August 2019.
On the same day, requesting the former speaker, former MP Ashu Marasinghe said that the meetings of the Sectoral Oversight Committees should also be opened to the media and necessary steps should be taken to see that end.
The COPE was first opened to the media on 9th August 2019. Until then, the committee discussions were held as internal council discussions and were not disclosed to the public.
Highest level of democracy the parliament has achieved
Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said at the opening of the COPE committee on 9th August 2019 that the Sri Lankan Parliament has reached the highest level of democracy.