By Shamindra Ferdinando
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (27) acknowledged that a proposal to extend the retirement age of Parliament staff, to 61 years, contrary to a government decision to retire public sector workers, at the age of 60, by end of this year, has been held up by State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya’s refusal to back the bid.
Speaker Abeywardena said that the House proposal couldn’t be implemented, unless approved by four members of the Parliament Staff Advisory Committee, consisting of him, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Leader of the House Susil Premjayantha and Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
Retirement of those who have reached 60 was in line with measures taken, against the backdrop of the economic fallout. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his interim Budget proposed to reduce the retirement age of public sector and semi-governmental employees to 60 years.
Authoritative sources told The Island yesterday that State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya wouldn’t back the proposal. The SLFPer told Parliament that the country was in such a bad situation Parliament staff couldn’t be given special status.
The State Minister said so on Dec. 13 in response to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s push to extend the retirement age of Parliament staff, contrary to the government’s decision to retire public servants at the age of 60, as part of the overall measures to address the continuing crippling economic crisis.
When the Speaker asked the SLFPer whether he couldn’t agree to the appeal made by the parliamentary staff, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the government decision couldn’t be reversed, under any circumstances.
The State Minister emphasized that the issue didn’t concern the Parliament.
The one-time Deputy Finance Minister has dismissed SJB leader Sajith Premadasa’s claim that at a meeting attended by four persons, namely the Speaker, Susil Premajayantha, Siyambalapitiya and himself, the State Finance Minister had agreed to extend the retirement age.
Lawmaker Premadasa alleged that having agreed with them, the State Finance Minister went back on his word.
Lawmaker Siyambalapitiya asked the Opposition Leader to peruse the minutes of the said meeting.
Recently, the Parliament warned the media over the reportage of a move to extend the service of Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake. The Parliament, in a statement issued on Dec. 05, quoted the Leader of the House Premjayantha as having said that those responsible for the reportage should be summoned before the Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
However, the statement made no reference to only three members of the Ethics and Privileges Committee endorsing the move to extend the retirement age though reference was made to a discussion on the retirement age of Parliament staff members. The statement quoted all members of the Ethics and Privileges Committee, except lawmaker Siyambalapitiya, who opposed the move.
Public Administration Secretary Priyantha Mayadunne said that Parliament staff didn’t come under the purview of his Ministry. However, as far as he was aware, there was no change in the original decision to retire those who had reached 60 by the end of this month. However, this would not apply to selected essential professions, such as medicine, nursing, and engineering.
The relevant gazette, dated Dec. 05, 2022, has been issued by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, in his capacity as Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government.