Disna MudaligeCamelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawaarachchi
Parliament marked the lowest point in its entire history yesterday with a series of violent assaults, bloodshed, and rancorous behaviour of some MPs which led to mayhem in the House.
The MPs were conducting a mock sitting with MP Arundika Fernando in the Speaker’s Chair flanked by fellow MPs when the quorum bell rang at 1.30 pm to commence sittings.
Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Dilan Perera were leading slogans which demanded the immediate arrest of UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma for sneaking in a knife and UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake for grabbing it and keeping it with him.
MP Susantha Punchinilame was seen seated on the Secretary General’s chair and video recording the scene. The MPs, who flocked near the Speaker’s Chair, shouted slogans which said “Palithaya pihi genawa”,
“Gon-Ranja pihi genawa”, “Pihikaraya remand karau”, “Karuwalayata enna kiyapiya, mewata uttara denna kiyapiya, berinam daala yanna kiyapiya” and “Oka tamai api kiwwe-mehema karala be kiwwe”.
Several representatives of the diplomatic missions were present in the gallery witnessing the entire episode while many electronic media channels brought in cameras to the gallery to provide live coverage. Instead of water bottles, the MPs were only provided with plastic cups of water yesterday. All individuals entering the Parliament complex were thoroughly scanned by the STF.
As the quorum bell went off at 1.30pm, the UNF, TNA and JVP MPs filed into the Chamber and took their seats in the Opposition. Secretary-General Dhammika Dasanayake, his Deputy and Assistant also took their seats. UNP MPs Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were also seen seated.
The quorum bell rang for the second time at 1.40 pm and again at 1.50pm for the third time, but the mock sitting continued. The MPs then started making speeches near the Speaker’s Chair. Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who spoke first, said arresting the criminal who brought in a knife to the Chamber was a pre-condition of theirs to let the sittings commence.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa, making a speech near the Speaker’s Chair, said they do not accept Karu Jayasuriya as the Speaker. He said the MPs security inside the Chamber must be assured. He called on the people to wage a “battle for democracy” in the streets. “The Governments are elected by the people of this country and not by foreign countries. Let the people decide at a General Election. I urge the Supreme Court to take the correct decision thinking of the future stability of the country,” he said.
Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Bandula Gunawardena and Mahindananda Aluthgamage also made speeches. Aluthgamage spoke in Tamil. Fernando, who was presiding the mock sitting, also called on the names of MPs Lakshman Kiriella and Anura Kumara stating that they could be given the floor for 10 minutes. MP Prasanna Ranaweera was seen guarding the closed door near the Speaker’s Chair which the Speaker usually uses to enter the Chamber.
The quorum bell sounded for the fourth time at 2.05pm. At 2.20pm, a side door to the Chamber opened and a large number of unarmed Parliament police personnel entered in a human chain guarding Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando who carried the Mace.
MPs had removed the Speaker’s Chair by then.
The first police officer who entered carried an extra chair for the Speaker and tried to move in the direction of the Speaker’s Chair. The furious MPs started reacting violently at this point.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa grabbed the Chair from the Police officer and Minister Johnston Fernando broke it into pieces. Fernando then threw the pieces back in the direction of the Speaker. The pieces hit Parliament Police.
Parliament staff assistants and police held cushion covers of the chairs to protect the Speaker. The Speaker took a seat usually allocated for Parliamentary staff assistants near the Opposition benches with a hand-held microphone. The MPs then hurled bound books at the direction of the Speaker and Police. Later they threw more such books and water mixed with chillie powder to the direction of Opposition MPs and police.
The Speaker then commenced the sittings officially and Standing Orders were suspended by majority vote. Since the Speaker spoke to the microphone, the Hansard could record what he said. All opposition MPs, who were in their seats, supported the Speaker to carry on the proceedings. The No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was placed before the House again after deleting the first Clause as agreed at the meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday night.
The Speaker asked all MPs to support to go for a vote by name, but since the MPs did not heed him, he took a voice vote. All Opposition MPs sat from their seats, raised their hands and said “aye”. The Speaker then announced the House that “the Ayes have it” and that the motion was carried while the UNF MPs cheered and applauded. The Speaker then adjourned the session till November 19.
While the MPs hurled books, shoes and any other item that they could reach, the political party supporters in the public gallery began shouting at the MPs. JVP MP Vijitha Herath and several Parliament police personnel sustained injuries. MPs Vijitha Herath and Gamini Jayawickrema Perera also came under the attack of water mixed with chillie powder. The thick bound book hit several Opposition MPs including Malik Samarawickrema. UNP MP Harin Fernando and several UNP MPs hurled the same big books thrown at them back in the direction of the UPFA MPs. The podium, on which the Mace is kept, fell on the floor due to the roar of the MPs.
PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, who made a brief presence in the House, walked out of the chamber. Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made a brief presence.