Chamal, SF lock horns

The Government and the Opposition clashed in Parliament yesterday (8), over Ranjan Ramanayake’s lost Parliamentary Seat, for the second consecutive day, following a heated exchange between Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

The two MPs were heard name-calling and using unparliamentary language against each other, while their colleagues supported them by shouting slogans, hooting, wearing black arm bands, and providing background scores. The hullabaloo led Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to adjourn the Sittings for a short period. 

Tensions rose as the Speaker told the House at the commencement of the Sittings that the Secretary-General of Parliament had acted in accordance with the Constitution when he informed the National Election Commission on the previous day (7) about Ramanayake’s seat. 

Responding to the Speaker’s statement, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa apologised for misinterpreting a part of the Speaker’s announcement made the previous day (7). 

However, Premadasa said Ramanayake will challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision to reject his Writ Petition in the Supreme Court.

“He has a right to do that. Therefore, I request the Speaker to recognise that right, until a final verdict is provided by the Supreme Court. It is sad that you all are in a hurry to send a letter to the EC Chairman when we even presented a motion to approve leave for Ramanayake. At that time, you told us that you cannot accept that because a Court case was going on. But now you are very quick to send letters to the EC, when Ramanayake still has a chance,” he said. 

Speaker: “There is a way. You can try to get an injunction order against the EC, instead of wasting time here by arguing. You have that chance.”

Premadasa: “A person who has been convicted for a murder can attend the Sittings (Premalal Jayasekara). I believe he has a right to appeal. But why cannot the same method apply for Ramanayake? You maintain that my argument is baseless. If you support the agenda of the Government, of course you would see things that way.”

Speaker: “Jayasekara has an appeal pending in Court.”

Premadasa: “You can accept Jayasekara’s appeal, but not Ramanayake’s. You are denying his right to the Parliamentary seat. It is a violation of human rights.”

Speaker: “You are misleading the country now. Don’t do that.”

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena, intervening in the argument said, “According to democracy, we have to obey the Courts whether we like it or not.”

Premadasa went on saying that there is a conspiracy against Ramanayake, as he is notorious for issuing controversial statements in Parliament. That is why people try to prevent him from entering Parliament. 

At this juncture, Fonseka stressed, “I remember the way the former Government treated me. They treated me so badly. The then Speaker (Chamal Rajapaksa) is sitting here today. They did not allow me to enter Parliament during the eight months I was in jail, despite filing three appeals in different Courts.”

Rajapaksa at this point requested a microphone from the Speaker. Fonseka told the Speaker to give Rajapaksa a microphone.

Rajapaksa, who was enraged, then started firing a salvo at Fonseka.

“I did not do such a thing. It was I who allowed you to come to Parliament. In your case, we followed a proper procedure. We took actions based on that.”

The Opposition MPs started to hoot at Rajapaksa. 

“Didn’t I allow you to enter Parliament? You are just trying to show your dominance. I will punch you. Why don’t you come out and see? Just come outside and I will show you.”

Afterwards, a series of unparliamentary words were exchanged between the Government and Opposition MPs. 

After several failed attempts, the Speaker announced that the Sittings would be adjourned for five minutes. However, he did not leave the Chamber and the Mace was not taken away by the Serjeant-at-Arms. 

While the Speaker was still in the Chamber, the Opposition MPs started to wear black arm bands and started to wave placards protesting the conduct of the Government. A few SJB MPs started to sing late politician Vijaya Kumaratunga’s famous song ‘Danga Gei Danduwam Siyumali Wadi Nam.’

Rajapaksa and Fonseka continued to exchange words, although microphones were taken away from them. 

The Speaker left the Chamber at this juncture. 

Then a group of Government MPs came into the Well and started to argue with the Opposition MPs. Unparliamentary words and hand gestures were exchanged between two parties. 

After the Sittings were resumed, Rajapaksa said, “It is said that, no matter how much good you do for ungrateful persons, they will not recognise it (kopamana guna kalath, dudano nowethi yahapath). However, I would like to apologise if I hurt anyone from what I said earlier.”