By Skandha Gunasekara and Ashwin Hemmathagama
Parliamentary proceedings descended into fisticuffs and name-calling yesterday when a brawl erupted in the House after the Speaker failed to obtain and table the bond report in Parliament.
United National Party (UNP) and Joint Opposition parliamentarians clashed yesterday soon after the Joint Opposition invaded the Well of the House.
The chaos began when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was making his statement despite the Joint Opposition (JO) invading the Well, displaying placards and chanting slogans. The serjeant-at-arms Anil Parakrama Samarasekera and his deputy Kushan Jayaratne held the Mace in the bracket when the JO parliamentarians tried to grab it
As the Prime Minister continued, the UNP MPs too stepped into the Well of the House and began shouting at the JO in retaliation. Once the Premier wrapped up his speech Speaker Karu Jayasuriya suspended sittings for 10 minutes at around 11.00 a.m.
Despite the suspension of Parliament, protesting MPs were seen in the Well and the UNP MPs could be seen trying to grab the placards of their JO counterparts.
In the ensuing turmoil, UNP MP S.M. Marikkar punched MP Gamini Lokuge, who in turn slapped MP Marrikkar. At this point UNP MP Kavinda Jayawardana, who had been attempting to grab the JO members’ placards, was seen collapsing to the floor. MP Marrikar and Minister Harsha De Silva then ran to assist MP Jayawardana, and the duo was seen carrying the unconscious Jayawardana out of the chambers. JO MP Ranjith Soyza was also assaulted by UNP legislators.
The fracas continued with the JO’s Johnston Fernando landing several punches on UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri and Hector Appuhamy. MP Prasanna Ranaweera was seen being dragged off by his peers with his shirt torn earlier by MP Chaminda Wijesiri. Meanwhile, MP Prasanna Ranatunga was seen hitting MP Chaminda Wijesiri and then fleeing towards the Opposition’s side exit.
UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who stayed away from the melee, was seen recording the incident on his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, MP Marikkar, who had left the chamber from the Government side exit, entered the chamber from the Opposition side and hit MP Gamini Lokuge from behind, causing the latter to fall onto a chair.
Books and other objects were flung by both sides, some even flying in the direction of the Prime Minister. Although the Premier was seen attempting to advance towards the commotion, Minister Sagala Ratnayake held him back.
Upon the resumption of sittings, at around 11.15 a.m., the Speaker announced that he had received a letter from the President and proceeded to read it to the House. He then said that he would meet with the Attorney General to discuss the procurement of the bond report for Parliament.
However, Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake charged that the pandemonium in the House could have been avoided had the Speaker kept to the decision taken at the party leaders’ meeting the previous day.
“There was bloodshed in this House as the Speaker failed to stick to his word,” Dissanayake said.