Opposition planning to boycott budget debate over ‘assault’

Crucial party leaders’ meeting today

By Saman Indrajith

The Opposition is expected to decide whether to boycott the ongoing debate on Budget 2022, after today’s party leaders’ meeting on a complaint that Galle District SJB MP, Manusha Nanyakkara, was roughed up in Parliament by government MPs, last Friday.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District SJB MP Lakshmkan Kiriella told The Island yesterday that the Opposition sought justice. “We see no point in attending Parliament if the Speaker continues to be partial and fails to act against those who violate Standing Orders and parliamentary traditions. Everybody knows what happened on Friday and the way our MP was treated. We fear for our safety in Parliament. We would not attend parliament unless our security is assured. Today, there is no freedom of speech in Parliament. We are planning to attend party leaders’ meeting at 8.30 Monday morning. If the government is not willing to change its ways and ensure our security, we will be left with no alternative but to boycott the budget debate.

SJB General Secretary and senior MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando had usurped the powers of the Speaker. “We cannot tolerate this any longer. We cannot attend parliament if we are assaulted by government members who once carried out chilli-powder attacks and hurled chairs in the House. We will report this issue to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I personally believe that we should boycott parliament until justice is done.”

TNA Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran said that he had been there in the Chamber when the incidents of alleged pushing of MP Nanayakkara took place. “Parliament session was to end at 5 pm but a time extension was granted. The presiding member gave 10 minutes to MP Nanayakkara to speak after 5 pm. The government side opposed it saying that the session should come to an end at

5 pm. The Speaker took the chair and ruled in accordance with the government wish and ordered that the sessions should stop. MP Nanayakkara proceeded to the Chair complaining of injustice meted out to him. At that time government members led by Chief Government Whip crossed the floor behind the Speaker’s Chair and some of them pushed MP Nanayakkara down. There was commotion and leveling of allegations and counter allegations. The government members say that MP Nanayakkara tried to attack the Speaker. I do not believe so. What I saw was that the violence was started by the government members.”

MP Sumanthiran said that the present situation in parliament with MPs resorting to violence had its origin in fracas inside the chamber during the time of 52-day government. “In the fracas during the 52-day saga there were incidents of hurling chairs, assaulting MPs and police officers and damaging the Speaker’s Chair. The MPs have the privilege of freedom of speech in the House. There is no privilege for assaulting other MPs. The whole country witnessed violent incidents by MPs in the House in 2018. Those incidents of violence should have been investigated and those responsible should have been dealt with as per the country’s laws. Such a thing did not happen as per understanding between two main parties. The UNP then is the SJB today. They too are responsible for the present situation because they did not push for action against those who broke the law in 2018. As per the present situation we will make our decision after Monday’s special party leaders’ meeting. There will be a TNA parliamentary group meeting after the party leaders’ meeting and we’ll make our decision,” MP Sumanthiran said.

JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that they did not approve violence in the House. “We will decide whether we support the SJB’s call after Monday’s meeting of the party leaders.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara had run to the Chair threatening the Speaker on Friday evening after he imposed a time limit for the debate in the House.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Minister Fernando said: “The CCTV video footage of the incident would provide evidence and prove the aggressive behaviour of MP Nanayakkara and how he turned violent after the Speaker ruled against additional time. MP Nanayakkara ran to the Chair menacingly and it is our duty to protect the Speaker. I went there to defend the Speaker. An MP has no right to threaten the Speaker or a presiding member. Some of those in the opposition seem to think that they are the governing party in this House when they issue threats and demands to the Speaker.”

Thank you

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