GENESIS OF THE PARLIAMENT BRAWL

Those were hectic days for the media as well as the whole of Sri Lanka when Minister Sarath Fonseka was dragged to jail by his junior officers, just weeks after he had led the Army into smashing the LTTE. Many sections of the people were thunder struck by the then government’s action. Trumped up charges, saw the General being dragged shamelessly to Court, and thence on to a 3- year prison sentence.
Much of society was numbed by the speed with which the nation’s war hero was seen dragged bodily by minions of the government in military uniform, along the sidewalks into a van and to remand prison. The sentence saw him dragged down to the indignity meted out to a common criminal or procurer as he was forced to sleep on a mat on the ground as the dogs loitering about the Welikada jail do.
Of what relevance is all of this to the brawl in Parliament last Tuesday when Fonseka stood up to speak about Mahinda Rajapaksa’s military security being removed and replaced with an even better trained STF security detail ?
The argument of the ex-President’s JO camp is that the removal of the Army security, as very clearly enunciated by Professor G.L. Peiris in a missive to all foreign envoys in Colombo, is that Mr. Rajapaksa has been dangerously exposed to threats to his life by the LTTE.
Efforts are being made to draw a red herring across this issue with calls for the Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians to be strictly enforced. That will only drive the real issue deeper underground.
The discovery of the suicide vest and ammunition in Jaffna and the removal of military on the heels of that discovery were together sufficient to drive MR and his camp followers into panic. Psychologically this was the factor that drove them to unleash their venom on the Speaker and the entire House on Tuesday. The other factor that drove that fear was the fact the security details are directly under the new IGP virtually appointed by President Sirisena.
The real significance behind the removal of Army security from Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, therefore, has not been lost on the brothers and on their camp followers. While the army is not usually called upon directly to effect an arrest of a civilian, VIP or otherwise, under any Court order, the STF can.
This is the subtle legal significance that is perhaps back of the fears indulged in by the Rajapaksas and their camp followers. Coming shortly after widespread speculation of a move to arrest Rajapaksa and his brother former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance and now proven killing of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda, immediately after five Army men were arrested in connection with that disappearance/killing, the speculation about an imminent arrest of the Rajapaksa brothers gained credence in the eyes of the public. There also was significance in the fact that the pro-Rajapaksa convener of the Mawbima Wenuwen Ranawiruwo organization Major Ajith Prasanna, called a media conference to say that the arrests of the Rajapaksa brothers was likely immediately after the five army intelligence officers were arrested.
That the changes in security from military to STF came immediately on the heels of these two developments tended to blow all fears and imaginations perhaps not too much out of proportion.
That the suicide kit and ammunition was found in Jaffna twixt these two developments added fuel to the fire looked at from the Rajapaksa point of view.
Major Prasanna went to the extent of accusing the Criminal Investigation Department of urging arrested Army intelligence men to sign some papers in a bid to incriminate the former President and the former Defence Secretary in the Ekneligoda case.
There’s fear of what the arrested military intelligence officers will say in Court. The unknown, to the guilty, can be frightening.
It’s not the removal of the military security per se that is unnerving to the Rajapaksas and their followers. The STF are better trained and equipped to provide them with the best possible professional security services.
Lifting of the military trade embargo on Sri Lanka by the US last Friday, which opens the way for much more than the buying and selling of military hardware from the US helped to lessen their confusion over what the immediate future holds for them. All this leads us to believe that we could be on the cusp of high profile arrests in connection with several crimes committed during the tenure of the former regime.
And that’s exactly where a security set-up that’s not ‘Rajapaksa-friendly’ sends the barometer rising in the JO camp, resulting in the rowdy outbursts and fisticuffs which made a mockery of a Parliamentary Code of Conduct. Such things as codes of conduct are as the dust on their feet when such massive threats begin to seep into their political lives like lava over the cusp of a volcanic mountain.