A murder convict, elected from Sri Lanka’s southern Ratnapura district, was escorted from prison to Parliament on Tuesday as he took the oath as MP amid opposition protests.
Days before the August 5 general election, Premalal Jayasekara, a member of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP of People’s Front), was sentenced to death for murdering an opposition activist at a 2015 election rally.
Unable to attend the inaugural session of the legislature following the elections — since prison authorities refused him permission — Mr. Jayasekara petitioned the Court of Appeal that on Monday issued an interim order allowing him to attend parliamentary sessions. He has also appealed against the conviction and the death sentence.
Mr. Jayasekara became the first convicted murderer to serve as an MP in Sri Lanka, according to news agency AFP. Legislators from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, or United People’s Front), the main Opposition party, wore black shawls in protest and staged a walk-out on Tuesday.
Citing articles pertaining to the grounds for disqualification of an elected representative, SJB MPs said allowing the convicted legislator into Parliament amounted to a violation of the Constitution.
Amid social media commentary on the move, much of it critical, Cabinet Minister Namal Rajapaksa tweeted: “In allowing Hon. Premalal Jayasekera to take oaths and attend #parliament the speaker of the house has not violated the constitution as the decision was made in keeping with the judgement given by the court of appeal a few days ago.”
Earlier this month, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias ‘Pillayan’, who was elected from Batticaloa in the Eastern Province, was similarly escorted to Colombo by the Prisons Department to attend the first parliamentary session.
Formerly with the LTTE, he broke away from the rebel organisation to join ranks with the then Rajapaksa government, and subsequently served as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province.
Currently aligned to the ruling SLPP, he is in remand custody for his alleged involvement in the murder of Tamil National Alliance MP Joseph Pararajasingham in 2005.