BY Buddhika Samaraweera
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who participated in the Parliamentary session last morning (5) in his first public appearance outside the President’s House in three months, left Parliament, after his presence in the House was protested against by the Opposition led by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).
The Parliamentary session commenced yesterday at around 10 a.m. and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made a special statement on the progress of the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the current economic situation of the country.
While the Premier was making the statement, the President arrived in Parliament at around 10.30 a.m. Arriving at the Parliament complex, he was received by a group of MPs representing the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, including Leader of the House and Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Dinesh Gunawardena.
The President then entered the Parliament Chamber and was listening to Wickremesinghe’s statement. During the statement, Wickremesinghe stated that if Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake had a progressive plan to get the country out of the prevailing economic crisis, he (Wickremesinghe) was ready to step down from the post of the Premier and offer it to Dissanayake.
At this point, when Premier Wickremesinghe sought to say something to the President, who was sitting next to him, the MPs representing the Opposition started protesting the President by chanting the popular slogan “Go Home Gota”. They continued to express their protest against the President holding placards that read “Go Home Gota”. Among the Opposition MPs who were protesting against the President while holding placards were SJB MPs Mujibur Rahuman, Hector Appuhamy, Chaminda Wijesiri, Rohana Bandara, and Dr. Kavinda Jayawardhana. Other Opposition MPs, including SJB MPs Lakshman Kiriella, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Dr. Harsha de Silva, and Tissa Attanayake, and Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi MP M.A. Sumanthiran PC were seen standing and chanting the slogan “Go Home Gota” as well. Opposition and SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa was also seen standing at the time.
During the protest from the Opposition, SLPP MP S.B. Dissanayake and a few other ruling party MPs and Gunawardena were seen speaking with the President, who was smiling at the time.
After some time, Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena asked the Opposition MPs to stop the protest and give the Premier the opportunity to make his statement. However, the Speaker announced that the Parliament session would be adjourned for 10 minutes at the end of the Premier’s statement, as the Opposition MPs continued to protest.
After that, the President, who remained in Parliament for a few minutes, was seen leaving the Chamber amidst protests. Several ruling party MPs, including Gunawardena, were seen escorting him. At the time of him leaving the Chamber, the Opposition MPs were loudly chanting the slogan “Go Home Gota”.
With the economic crisis that has arisen in the country, protests are underway across the country, emphasising that the SLPP Government, including President Rajapaksa, then-Prime Minister and current MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, and former Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa, should resign. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, and the SLPP Government resigned in the face of the protests, but the President did not.
The “GotaGoGama” protest zone has been active now for nearly three months in front of the Presidential Secretariat at the Galle Face Green, which was set up to force the President to resign. Regional GotaGoGama zones have been set up in several cities and towns, including Kandy and Galle.