A vote of condolence on a murdered Sri Lankan government MP on Friday (10) saw Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe calling for an inquiry on an opposition legislator and ex-PM Mahinda Rajapaksa claiming that the country’s protesting youth have blood on their hands.
Noting the parliamentary tradition of a vote of condolence on a deceased MP, Wickremesinghe said it was regrettable that one MP had remained silent during Friday morning’s round of speeches commemorating the life of MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale.
Atukorale was murdered by a violent mob on May 09 on his way home from Colombo after an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors by government supporters triggered a wave of retaliatory violence islandwide. The offices and private residences of a number of MPs, predominantly government, were torched my mobs around the country.
Referring to the parliament’s Hansard record for May 20, Wickremesinghe said opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam had said the houses were burnt down for voting for bills harmful to the country such as the 20th amendment to the constitution and the 2021 budgets.
“This means that the houses were burnt because of an opposing view,” said Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe said opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Kumar Welgama, an early and prominent critic of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had not voted for any government bill. Welgama was assaulted by a mob in Homagama, but according to Wickremesinghe the attack was carried out not by residents but by outsiders. The prime minister said many investigations have pointed to outsider involvement in the arson attacks reported across the island.
Wickremesinghe took issue with the tone of MP Rasamanickam’s impassioned speech on May 20.
“He said ‘it’s because the people’s mandate was betrayed that this happened. Remember that.’ Remember that? How can an MP say that?”
Recalling past assassinations of parliamentarians such as former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, WIckremesinghe said while those MPs had their critics outside the House, those inside were united in their condemnation of their murders irrespective of party difference.
“Now it’s happening inside.
“Is he condoning these arson attacks? Is murder being condoned? Is the attack on Welgama being condoned?”
The premier also seemed to connect Rasamanickam, with a protest outside parliament, and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a breakaway faction of the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) that some government MPs have accused of being behind the violence – an allegation the party denies.
“When parliament was surrounded, they came and said ‘nothing happened to us’. The previous day there is a picture with Kumar Gunaratnam of the FSP,” said Wickremesinghe.
“No one opposes the FSP engaging in democratic work. But what about when they go beyond that?
“Is this what’s happening in this parliament?”
If Rasamanickam does not withdraw his statement by next week, said the prime minister, the Speaker must investigate his remarks and put the matter before a committee.
“Such things cannot happen in this house,” he said.
Rasamanickam has yet to respond to the PM’s speech. Since he was sworn in as prime minister, the TNA MP has become a harsh and vociferous critic of Wickremesinghe, suggesting that the latter had stepped up not to save Sri Lanka from its worsening economic crisis but to save the Rajapaksa family.”
TNA MP M A Sumanthiran, too, has been openly critical of Wickremesinghe.
Meanwhile, former PM Mahinda Rajpaaksa, whose supporters triggered the orgy of violence on May 09, said the protestors have blood on their hands.
“It is true that the people are frustrated. It’s true that they want to protest. But there are political forces directing people to violence. I believe MP Atukorale’s murder took place as a result of this.
“Not only was he stripped and beaten. His body wasn’t allowed to be taken out either. It was also ordered to burn his body on the road,” said Rajapaksa, recalling similar public executions that took place in Sri Lanka during the 1988/’89 southern insurgency by the JVP.
“What did he do to deserve that?
“He never hurt anyone in the Aragalaya (‘the struggle’, or people’s protest) or anyone else.
“An aragalaya that killed an innocent man like that can no longer be innocent. There’s blood on their hands,” he said.