Death row inmate sworn in as MP amidst Opp. protests

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 00:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Premalal Jayasekera takes oaths amidst heckling by SJB MPs
  • Speaker defends decision to allow swearing-in saying he is abiding by CA order
  • SJB MPs wear black sashes around neck in protest and walk out after swearing-in

By Chandani Kirinde

Ratnapura District SLPP MP-elect Premalal Jayasekera, who is on death row, was sworn in as a Member of Parliament (MP) before Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday, amidst strong protests by opposition lawmakers.

The swearing-in was the first item on the agenda of yesterday’s proceedings, with Jayasekera, who had been brought to Parliament by the Prison Department, taking his oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the country.

The swearing-in took place amidst angry protests by MPs of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), who wore black sashes around their necks to display their anger at the decision to allow Jayasekera to take oaths.

SJB Kandy District MP and Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella was on his feet to object to the oath-taking, but despite his efforts and those of other SJB MPs, Jayasekera was sworn in.

The Speaker defended his decision to allow Jayasekera to take oaths, saying he is abiding by the Order of the Court of Appeal, which stated that Jayasekera is entitled to all rights as a MP.

The Speaker, however, allowed Kiriella to express his views afterwards, where he referred to the case of a similar such instance, when a MP was not allowed to attend Parliament after his conviction.

“I would like to quote Minister G. L. Peiris who made a statement, when we were the Opposition, to prevent MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka from attending Parliament in 2010. Professor Peiris said an MP who has been convicted by a court of law does not have the right to attend the sessions. He said such a person loses the Parliamentary seat automatically. Hence, going by the interpretation of a legal expert, the Speaker does not have the right to allow him to take oaths as a MP,” Kiriella said.

SJB MP Harin Fernando said that the Speaker permitting this swearing-in is setting a wrong precedent, and said Jayasekera should not be allowed to sit or vote in Parliament.

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said that MPs cannot raise an objection on a decision made by the Judiciary. “One can raise an objection against a decision made by the Judiciary only through a substantive motion brought to the House. An MP should raise objections based on Standing Orders,” he said.

MP Jayasekera was congratulated by Government rank members Vijitha Berugoda, Janaka Wakkumbura, and front row members of the Government after he took his oaths, and took a back row seat on the Government side. He was also seen speaking to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa later in the day.