By Saman Indrajith
SLPP Ratnapura District MP Premalal Jayasekera, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, was sworn in as an MP amidst protests from the SJB in Parliament, yesterday.
At the commencement of sittings, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that Jayasekera could take his oath as an MP.
As the announcement came, SJB Kandy District MP and Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella protested against the swearing in. He was joined by SJB MPs wearing black shawls around their necks.
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out that as per the Standing Orders, the MPs could not raise points of order when the Speaker was making an announcement.
SJB MPs Harin Fernando, Nalin Bandara and Kiriella shouted that it was illegal for Jayasekera to take oaths as an MP.
Amidst the din, Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando accompanied Jayasekera to the Speaker’s Chair and he was sworn in.
MP Jayasekera was congratulated by SLPP members Vijitha Berugoda, Janaka Wakkumbura and front row members of the government side.
Thereafter the Speaker permitted the Opposition to raise their points of order.
Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: “Today, a person who has been sentenced to death by a High Court took oaths as an MP before the Speaker (shouting from the government ranks). In 2010, when Sarath Fonseka was elected to this House but could not come to take oath as he was in the prison. We raised the issue asked the Chair to permit him to take his oath. But Prof GL Peiris raised objections, citing the provisions of the Section 89 of the Constitution and informed the House that the MP elect could not take oaths if he or she had been convicted by a court. As per Prof Peiris, the MP elect would lose his seat the moment he was convicted by a High Court. In addition Prof Peiris told this very same House that a person sentenced to death could not become an MP. He said that in such a situation the Speaker’s ruling had no power above the court’s conviction. Prof. Peiris said that it was clearly outlined in the Constitution.
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena: A new MP who had been elected by his people now has taken his oaths. Thereafter, there is no room for others to raise points of order against it. As per Standing Order, anyone who is sworn in before the Speaker as an MP has rights and privileges of an MP.
SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka: The Constitution states that a person sentenced to death cannot become an MP and is not even entitled to cast his vote. That was the reason given when I was incarcerated in 2010. That was not at least by a court of law but an outfit which had exercised the powers of a court. I was taken into custody by the orders of the then President. As per the rules, I could not have been arrested by an officer junior to me. But they did so. I was given a 30-year sentence after I took an oath as an MP. Today, one took oaths after he had been sentenced to death.
SJB MP Harin Fernando: This is not something personal against Premalal Jayasekera. I will read the judgment to the House. The Speaker permitting this swearing in is setting a wrong precedent. I request that all those sentenced to death should be given an opportunity to visit their homes once a week.
Thereafter, the Speaker moved the House to proceed with the day’s business. The SJB MPs got up and shouted. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and SJB MPs threw their black shawls to the well of the House and left the chamber in protest.
However, none of the TNA or NPP members joined the protest. After several minutes passed SJB MPs Lakshman Kiriella and Eran Wickremaratne were seen returning to their seats.
Newly sworn in MP Jayasekera took a seat in the back row of the government ranks.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in the chamber several minutes after the new MP taken his oaths.