By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday (May 4) said that there had been a far more serious incident in Parliament during 1992 than Tuesday’s fracas.
President Sirisena was referring to fisticuffs between some members of the UNP Parliamentary Group and the Joint Opposition over a controversial decision to replace former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa’s army bodyguards with police personnel.
Addressing a gathering after the opening of newly built auditorium of Royal College, Horana, President Maithripala Sirisena said that he had seen many incidents involving members of Parliament. Having entered parliament in 1989 as an Opposition member, the Polonnaruwa District parliamentarian served as an MP and Minister for 26 years before successfully contesting the January 2015 presidential polls.
President Maithripala Sirisena said: “There were so many incidents during 1989-1994 period. Although, I hadn’t hit anyone, I was assaulted inside Parliament.”
President Maithripala Sirisena recalled a fight in Parliament during turbulent 1992 while describing it as an incident far worse than Tuesday’s fisticuffs. The President said that the then UNP MP Gamini Lokuge had dragged MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara after assaulting him near the Speaker’s chair. The President said that MP Nanayakkara had been dragged down from an elevated position thereby turning Parliament to a battlefield.
Today, both Lokuge and Nanayakkara are with the Joint Opposition.
The President said: “Standing near a front-row seat, I was watching the scene when a government MP pounced on me. I was assaulted. With the change of government in 1994, I received a ministerial post. The MP, who had assaulted me in Parliament in 1992 visited me six years later seeking my assistance.”
Claiming that he had swiftly attended to the matter, President Maithripala Sirisena said that the MP concerned had thrown his weight behind his candidature at the last presidential polls in January 2015.
Although such an incident in Parliament could be settled subsequently, entire Parliament was accountable to ensure the honour of every MP. The President called fisticuffs in Parliament extremely indecent.
Those SLFPers loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena refrained from siding with either party. Of the 95 elected on the UPFA ticket at that last parliamentary polls in August last year, 49 members remain independent.
President Maithripala Sirisena stressed that he wouldn’t lay foundation stones under any circumstances unless he was made aware of the institution responsible for making the required allocations. The President said that he didn’t want to take the blame for delaying of a building project for want of funds after laying the foundation stone.