By Ashwin Hemmathagama
Turmoil continued in Parliament yesterday with both MP Ranil Wickremesinghe and MP Mahinda Rajapaksa camps clashing with each other, with the furore descending into fisticuffs and foul language hurled at Speaker Karu Jayasuriya along with a dustbin, a file folder, a water bottle and even a copy of the Constitution.
The mayhem inside the main Chamber began shortly after the House met at 10 a.m. Speaker Jayasuriya was greeted by hoots from the Rajapaksa camp. Seeking the MPs’ support to continue the day’s proceedings with necessary decorum in the House, the Speaker said “thank you” to the disturbing lawmakers.
Highlighting the vacuum in the post of prime minister, Speaker Jayasuriya said: “I will not recognise any MP as the prime minister, minister, state or deputy minister, chief government whip or leader of the house as the cabinet of ministers stands dissolved after the no confidence motion on Wednesday. A new prime minister and cabinet of ministers are not yet appointed. There is free seating for the convenience of business of the House today. I also remind you that according to the Standing Orders, the final decision on all Parliamentary affairs lies with the Speaker. Such decision can only be challenged inside the Chamber,” he said.
However, the voted-out Prime Minister, MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, was seen assuming the prime minister’s seat on the Government benches and UNP Leader MP Ranil Wickremesinghe was seen taking a back bench opposite.
Disagreeing with the Speaker, MP Dinesh Gunawardena held it was necessary to read out the message received from the President following Parliamentary traditions. Rejecting the request, the Speaker opened the floor to MP Rajapaksa to address the House.
During MP Rajapaksa’s speech, UNP MPs were seen disturbing the process. With Rajapaksa concluding his address, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella proposed to move a vote, which was vehemently objected to by the UPFA members now occupying the Government benches.
MP Thilanga Sumathipala hurriedly went near the Speaker’s Chair and both became entangled in a heated argument. Sumathipala was followed by a group of UPFA MPs and soon the Speaker was under complete siege. UNP MPs Ranjan Ramanayake, Kavinda Jayawardena, Kabir Hashim, Hector Appuhamy, Asoka Abeysinghe and Mangala Samaraweera also rushed near the Speaker’s Chair and formed a protective ring.
MPs exchanged blows near the Speaker’s Chair while Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando held the Mace in his hand to prevent the MPs from grabbing it. A water bottle, a dustbin and a copy of the Constitution were among the items thrown at the Speaker by the UPFA MPs. Meanwhile, MPs Prasanna Ranaweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Harin Fernando and Naveen Dissanayake were seen exchanging blows.
Caught up in the melee, MP Sidney Jayaratne and a few others fell on the floor. Some senior MPs of both sides including Patali Champika Ranawaka, Vijith Vijithamuni de Soysa and Sajith Premadasa were seen trying to separate the clashing MPs. MP Rajapaksa and former MP Wickremesinghe were seen seated throughout the brawl.
MPs Ananda Aluthgamage, Prasanna Ranaweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Piyal Nishantha, Udaya Padmashantha and Palitha Thewarapperuma were noted for their violent behaviour and many UPFA MPs repeatedly hurled abused at the Speaker.
MP Ananda Aluthgamage grabbed the Speaker’s microphone and MP Dilum Amunugama injured his hand while trying to break the microphone. MP Amunugama was seen being escorted out of the chamber for treatment at the Parliament Medical Centre.
Ministers Dilan Perera and Pavithra Wanniarachchi led the slogan “Moota vada Paba hondai” (Paba is better than him). The stressed Speaker then left the Chamber, while UPFA MPs cheered “jayawewa”. After the Speaker left, MP Rajapaksa and former MP Wickremesinghe also left the chamber.
While the UNP MPs came up with the slogan “Mahinda hora penala giya” (Mahinda rouge ran away), the UPFA MPs replied “benku hora penala giya” (bank thief ran away). The JVP MPs joined with them with a slogan, “horu dennama penala giya” (both thieves got away).
As the Speaker left the Chair, the House stood adjourned. The MPs, who remained in the Chamber even after the adjournment, were seen sitting on the steps near the Speaker’s Chair. MP Susantha Punchinilame sat on the Secretary General’s Chair and was seen video recording the entire episode. The Party Leaders, who met after the adjournment of the House, decided to have the next sitting at 1:30 p.m. today.