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Opposition planning to boycott budget debate over ‘assault’



Crucial party leaders’ meeting today

By Saman Indrajith

The Opposition is expected to decide whether to boycott the ongoing debate on Budget 2022, after today’s party leaders’ meeting on a complaint that Galle District SJB MP, Manusha Nanyakkara, was roughed up in Parliament by government MPs, last Friday.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District SJB MP Lakshmkan Kiriella told The Island yesterday that the Opposition sought justice. “We see no point in attending Parliament if the Speaker continues to be partial and fails to act against those who violate Standing Orders and parliamentary traditions. Everybody knows what happened on Friday and the way our MP was treated. We fear for our safety in Parliament. We would not attend parliament unless our security is assured. Today, there is no freedom of speech in Parliament. We are planning to attend party leaders’ meeting at 8.30 Monday morning. If the government is not willing to change its ways and ensure our security, we will be left with no alternative but to boycott the budget debate.

SJB General Secretary and senior MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando had usurped the powers of the Speaker. “We cannot tolerate this any longer. We cannot attend parliament if we are assaulted by government members who once carried out chilli-powder attacks and hurled chairs in the House. We will report this issue to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I personally believe that we should boycott parliament until justice is done.”

TNA Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran said that he had been there in the Chamber when the incidents of alleged pushing of MP Nanayakkara took place. “Parliament session was to end at 5 pm but a time extension was granted. The presiding member gave 10 minutes to MP Nanayakkara to speak after 5 pm. The government side opposed it saying that the session should come to an end at

5 pm. The Speaker took the chair and ruled in accordance with the government wish and ordered that the sessions should stop. MP Nanayakkara proceeded to the Chair complaining of injustice meted out to him. At that time government members led by Chief Government Whip crossed the floor behind the Speaker’s Chair and some of them pushed MP Nanayakkara down. There was commotion and leveling of allegations and counter allegations. The government members say that MP Nanayakkara tried to attack the Speaker. I do not believe so. What I saw was that the violence was started by the government members.”

MP Sumanthiran said that the present situation in parliament with MPs resorting to violence had its origin in fracas inside the chamber during the time of 52-day government. “In the fracas during the 52-day saga there were incidents of hurling chairs, assaulting MPs and police officers and damaging the Speaker’s Chair. The MPs have the privilege of freedom of speech in the House. There is no privilege for assaulting other MPs. The whole country witnessed violent incidents by MPs in the House in 2018. Those incidents of violence should have been investigated and those responsible should have been dealt with as per the country’s laws. Such a thing did not happen as per understanding between two main parties. The UNP then is the SJB today. They too are responsible for the present situation because they did not push for action against those who broke the law in 2018. As per the present situation we will make our decision after Monday’s special party leaders’ meeting. There will be a TNA parliamentary group meeting after the party leaders’ meeting and we’ll make our decision,” MP Sumanthiran said.

JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that they did not approve violence in the House. “We will decide whether we support the SJB’s call after Monday’s meeting of the party leaders.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara had run to the Chair threatening the Speaker on Friday evening after he imposed a time limit for the debate in the House.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Minister Fernando said: “The CCTV video footage of the incident would provide evidence and prove the aggressive behaviour of MP Nanayakkara and how he turned violent after the Speaker ruled against additional time. MP Nanayakkara ran to the Chair menacingly and it is our duty to protect the Speaker. I went there to defend the Speaker. An MP has no right to threaten the Speaker or a presiding member. Some of those in the opposition seem to think that they are the governing party in this House when they issue threats and demands to the Speaker.”


Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence



Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks



Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty



Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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