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Sunday, 11 October 2015

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Ruckus in the House

The UPFA rebel MPs again displayed their unruly behaviour when they attempted to stage a protest in the well of the House on Tuesday (October 6) against the move to set up a hybrid court to prosecute war heroes who eradicated terrorism. The 'drama' enacted by the MPs of the National Freedom Front (NFF) and Mahajana Eaksath Peramuna (MEP), two constituent partners of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) caused pandemonium in the House leading to sittings being suspended abruptly.

NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa who was instrumental in enacting the 'drama' demanded to know as to why the government had not allocated time to debate the recent UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka. Leader of the House and Minister of Higher Education and Highways Lakshman Kiriella told the MP that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to permit a debate at the party Leaders' meeting. Rejecting Weerawansa's claims, Minister Kiriella said there was no mention of the hybrid court in the Resolution. The Minister also inquired from former President and Kurunegala District UPFA MP Mahinda Rajapaksa seated in the front row of the Opposition benches, whether there was any reference to a hybrid court in the Resolution. The former President merely smiled at Kiriella and waved down his request.

Following this, UPFA MPs Jayantha Samaraweera, Sisira Jayakody, Weerakumara Dissanayake, Niroshan Premaratne and Piyal Nishantha enacted the first episode of their 'drama' putting up a huge banner which said, "Reject the hybrid court that targets war heroes" and displayed it from the Opposition benches.

Former President Rajapaksa, MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena and DLF Leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara witnessed the protest from their chairs. MP Weerawansa was seen capturing visuals of the protest without joining in the protest. A few minutes later, the MPs holding the banner aloft marched to the well of the House. Except for SLFP MP Lohan Ratwatte, no other SLFP MP joined the protest perhaps due to their fear of disciplinary action being taken against them by the party leadership.

Cheap publicity

Minister Rauff Hakeem found fault with MP Weerawansa for capturing the visuals of the protest seeking cheap publicity. He recalled as to how MP Weerawansa staged a fast-unto-death protest opposite the UN office in Colombo when an issue similar to this cropped up.

MP Weerawansa responded that he did not meet Velupillai Prabhakaran and took money from him. He alleged that those who met Prabahakaran and took money from him may be perturbed when they protest against a hybrid court.

UNP MPs Palitha Thevarapperuma and Nalin Bandara walked towards the protesting opposition MPs and tried to snatch the banner. As this led to a tense situation in the well of the House, Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala suspended sittings for ten minutes.

The UPFA rebel MPs walked out of the Chamber on Thursday protesting against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe using unparliamentary language. They told the House that they would leave the chamber to protest against the Premier using words such as Pimpiya and Ahikuntikaya (gypsies) to refer to Opposition members. Before leaving the Chamber, the UPFA MPs staged a protest following an argument that disrupted sittings for more than 30 minutes on the very first day parliamentary proceedings were telecast live on Rupavahini.

When the House reconvened, MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena sought permission to make a statement under Section 17 of the Standing Orders as a matter of national importance.

However, the Speaker told the MP that he needed time to study the issue before permitting to move it. This led to a heated argument between the government and the opposition members who shouted at the Prime Minister. As the situation turned hectic with MPs of both sides shouting at each other, Speaker Jayasuriya suspended sittings for ten minutes.

Death penalty

The Party Leaders of the UPFA rainbow coalition called upon the Speaker to recognize them as separate political parties in Parliament and resolve this issue in keeping with the traditions of Parliament. MP Weerawansa said that they had been deprived of their right to participate in debates and party leaders' meetings. He requested the Speaker to give his opinion on this issue.

Minister Kiriella who rejected Weerawansa's claim pointed out, that the Parliament recognizes only six parties and the Speaker too had decided to recognise only six parties.

The Minister told the MP that they do not recognize parties within alliances and alleged that these MPs came to Parliament thanks to the SLFP.

In the backdrop of the campaign calling for the restoration of the death penalty, UNP Colombo District parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra moved an adjournment motion calling for capital punishment for those convicted for child abuse and murder. Presenting the motion MP Premachandra stressed the need to protect innocent children and said that there is provision for an accused to seek justice even from the apex Court to prove his innocence.

However, most of the government and the opposition members who joined the debate stressed the importance of taking immediate measures to arrest the rising wave of crime rather than reintroducing the death penalty. Minister of Housing and Construction Sajith Premadasa told the House that he was in favour of the death penalty, and added that if one says that the death penalty could be used to prevent crime, it is not true.

The Minister said before enforcing capital punishment, the judiciary and Police should be depoliticised. Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P. Perera said the rate of crime has declined in developed countries not because of capital punishment.

It is because justice and moral values are upheld. It is incumbent on the government to minimise the rate of crime in the country. Capital punishment is articulated only by the uninitiated, he said.

 

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