25th July, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 2

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Govt. MPs busy globetrotting

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti 

While the government has failed to hold regular parliamentary sessions as required under the standing orders, ministers have been busy globetrotting at state expense.

According to available information, 21 ministers and deputies have made 21 overseas trips within three months.

The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) came into office pledging to control overseas travel of parliamentarians and particularly ministers in a bid to ensure more accountability and curtailment of expenditure. They were also critical of the United National Party (UNP) on the same score during opposition days.

The Sunday Leader is in possession of documentary evidence regarding the trips of the ministers and deputy ministers and accordingly in the month of April, just after the UPFA came into office, Ministers W.D.J. Seneviratne and Jeevan Kumaratunga both have taken wing.

In May, the new cabinet of ministers has undertaken considerable travelling.

Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, Anura Bandaranaike and A.H.M. Fowzie flew out during the first week of May, followed by Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Nimal Siripala de Silva. Kumara Welgama and Anura Kumara Dissanayake both went overseas on May 19. A week later, Douglas Devananda too has taken wing.

On May 24, just days prior to resigning from parliament to contest provincial hustings as the Sabaragamuwa chief ministerial candidate, Maheepala Herath too travelled abroad. On May 29, Vijitha Herath and Athauda Seneviratne travelled together. On May 30, Mahindananda Aluthgamage too left the shores making the monthly ministerial travels some 13 tours.

In June, Minister Athauda Senenviratne and Deputy Minister Bandula Basnayake also travelled overseas. Ferial Ashraff, D.M. Jayaratne and Milroy Fernando also went abroad during the latter part of June. Minister Anura Bandaranaike made two trips during the month.

July saw four exits. Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva left on July 6 and M)inisters Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle were in New Delhi in mid July at the time when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse went on his first official tour to meet the Indian leaders.

The tours were made despite Presidential directives that the ministers should ensure they undertake overseas trips only when compulsory.

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