Conflicting statements on Parliamentary brawl | Sunday Observer

Conflicting statements on Parliamentary brawl

File photo
File photo

The committee report on the Parliament brawl which was handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on January 22, continues to languish in the Speaker’s Office, only further delaying any possible action being taken against the offending Parliamentarians named therein.

According to Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, the report has not been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Department yet, as the Speaker wishes hold a meeting with the Secretary General of Parliament, Neil Iddawela, and the committee members, after studying the report. “The meeting will most likely be held early this week,” Kumarasiri said, adding that a decision will be made on the fate of the report, thereafter.

Reports claim that the Department of Valuation had estimated the loss due to the damage caused to Parliament property, as a result of the all-out brawl which broke out between Parliamentarians on the floor of the house on November 15, as Rs 325,000. The Speaker, Police and Parliamentarians were seen being attacked with chairs and books. Some MP’s resorted to attacking others with chilli powder while another was seen brandishing what appeared to be a knife. As calls to take action against the lawmakers who acted in an unparliamentary manner intensified, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya appointed a committee to inquire into the incident.

While the committee comprised of MPs representing all parties, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MPs Chamal Rajapaksa and Chandrasiri Gajadeera who were chosen to represent their parties, declined to take part in the committee deliberations. Asked as to why they boycotted the deliberations, former Speaker Rajapaksa said that it was mainly due to a policy decision, because they thought the Speaker had the opportunity to prevent the occurrence of such clashes in Parliament, without allowing the situation to worsen to that extent. “However, we are not in a position to say whether we can be satisfied with the committee deliberations or not, without reading its full report,” he said, adding that such a detailed report was not needed to punish the offenders if there was a genuine need to do so. According to him, it is more important to find out why the Parliamentarians were compelled to behave in such a manner in the Well of the House and whether preventive measures should have been taken to contain their behaviour at the very outset.

The final report has named 59 MPs, however, it is now unclear if any action will be taken against the wrongdoers.

Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Ajith P. Perera told the Sunday Observer that such acts, which tarnish the dignity and decorum of Parliament, should not be tolerated. “Steps should be taken to punish those who misbehaved in the Well of the House as it seriously affected the proceedings of the House,” he said, pointing out that damaging public property is a criminal offence. “The Speaker should refer the report to the Attorney General as the wrongdoers must be punished,” he opined.

While only the Supreme Court can inquire into certain serious offences under the Parliamentary Privileges Act, the Minister explained that if the Speaker decided to hand over the report to the Attorney General, he, in turn, will have to conduct an investigation to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence to take action, and then refer the matter to the Supreme Court.

UPFA Gampaha District MP Prasanna Ranaweera earned much flak after it was revealed he was one MP who had been accused of several offences on the day. He was caught on tape throwing chilli powder and indulging in other disruptive acts.

Nevertheless, no stranger to controversy, Ranaweera now claims the push by the government to punish him and others of the Joint Opposition is a desperate effort to silence its critics. “They want to repress and silence us so they can get Bills passed in Parliament without any opposition,” he said.

Ranaweera, slamming the findings of the committee, said he along with others have been found guilty unilaterally. “No statements were recorded from the accused,” he pointed out. The MP said, he, therefore, denies all allegations levelled against him.

He also went on to explain as to what action should have been taken following the incident. “First they should have investigated into what led to the ruckus that day,” he said. Ranaweera places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Accusing the Speaker of acting arbitrarily, he claims the Speaker failed to suspend the sittings at the beginning of the clashes even though UPFA MP Susantha Punchinilame had requested him to do so. “Therefore the Speaker should be responsible for creating such an undesirable situation in Parliament,” he said.

According to Ranaweera, it was those among the Government ranks who brought knives to the Chamber and some underworld thugs to the public gallery. “But funnily enough only four Government MPs as against 50 MPs of the Joint Opposition, have been accused,” he said. As for the chilli powder, claiming he along with other MP’s go through security checks, Ranaweera denied he brought the chilli powder into Parliament. “I only threw objects that others were throwing as well,” he admitted.

Another MP accused was Deputy Minister of Social Empowerment Palitha Thewarapperuma who was seen brandishing what appeared to a sharp weapon during the brawl. Thewarapperuma told the Sunday Observer that the October Constitutional crisis that let loose a spate of incidents such as clashes in Parliament followed by some MPs bringing in certain objects which are not generally permitted into the Chamber.

According to the Deputy Minister, leaders should govern the country in keeping with democratic norms and traditions. “When the Constitution and other statutory laws are there to govern the country, the leaders should not attempt to promote their political ambitions at the cost of the country,” he said. Thewarapperuma said he always holds the law in high esteem. “Therefore, if I had done any wrong thing I may be dealt with,” he said.

But perhaps a surprising mention in the report is said to be Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP VIjitha Herath who was seen being attacked by some Opposition MPs.

He has been accused of approaching the Speaker during the sittings. “I have been named and that is fine,” he said adding that despite being an accused in the brawl, action should be taken against all involved.

“Even incidents in parliament are bound by the laws of Sri Lanka,” Herath said, adding that if that were not so, even a murder could take place within Parliament.

“Therefore, action must be taken according to the common law of the country,” the MP opined.