Protests plunge House into chaos


By Saman Indrajith

Parliament sittings lasted for only two hours as Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had to adjourn the House following a protest staged by the MPs of Joint Opposition demanding that they be assured their right to act as an independent group in Parliament.

The government, however, managed to get the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill seeking to increase the percentage of female representatives in local government bodies passed amidst the booing of Opposition MPs.

When the bill was taken for debate Joint Opposition MPs led by MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena came to the Well of the House protesting.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the commencement of the debate said that the bill was seeking to increase women’s representation in the local government bodies and asked why the opposition was trying to disrupt it.

"We have given additional time to the members of the Joint Opposition to participate in the debate. We can continue the debate and get the bill passed, enabling the increase of the number of women members in local government bodies. I would like to ask the members of the Joint Opposition whether they are against increasing women’s representation," the Prime Minister said.

Members of the Joint Opposition including Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Wimal Weerwansa, C.B. Ratnayake, Udaya Gammanpila, Dullas Alahapperuma, Chandrasiri Gajadheera, Salinda Dissanayake, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Namal Rajapaksa, Niroshan Premaratne, D.V. Chanaka, Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Jayantha Samaraweera, Tharaka Balasuriya, Shehan Semasinghe, Indika Anuruddha, Prasanna Ranaweera, Weerakumara Dissanayake, Sanath Nishantha, and Kanchana Wijesekera shouted slogans from the Well of Parliament.

Government MPs came and stood around the Prime Minister for his protection while the members of Joint Opposition were staging the protest.  Among them were Ravi Karunanayake, Lakshman Kiriella, Harin Fernando, Mujibur Rahuman, Kavinda Jayawardena, Nalin Bandara, Chandrani Bandara, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Gayantha Karunathilake.

Leader of the House University Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said: "When President Maithripala Sirisena summons them, around 40 of these MPs go and accept and agree with whatever the President says. Now, they come here and pretend to be opposition MPs. What is your true position?

Government ministers and MPs were seen shouting at the opposition MPs who in return booed their counterparts.

As the pandemonium reigned and the government members continued to speak in the debate regardless of the loud noise, Sergeant-at-Arms Anil Parakrama Samarasekera, his deputies Narendra Fernando and Kushan Jayaratne were seen protecting the Mace.

Ministers Chandrani Bandara, Anoma Gamage, Faizer Mustapaha and opposition MP Mavai Senathiraja spoke in the debate and none of their speeches lasted more than three minutes. After that leader of the House and University Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella moved the House for committee stage and presented amendments to the bill amidst the chaos. The government rankers shouted ‘aye’ for each amendment.

As the bill was passed technically the Speaker adjourned the House around 3.05 pm, three hours earlier.

DLF Leader MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara after adjourning of the House told his colleagues of the Joint Opposition that they should meet tomorrow (today) and resume the protest. He told the government to expect the same protest again till their demand for being accepted as an independent group in parliament.

Sergeant-at-Arms Anil Parakrama and his deputies took the Mace away and walked through the protesting MPs to end the session.

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