Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe raised a privilege issue against the Daily FT and Indian newspaper The Hindu yesterday in Parliament.
According to Wickrem-esinghe, the first article appeared in The Hindu on 2 January 2013 – ‘UNP to boycott court hearing on Sri Lankan’s CJ’s impeachment’. The second article was carried by the Daily FT on 3 January 2013 – ‘Ranil bans UNP committee members from appearing in courts,’ which he claims “untrue and is in relation of the powers of Parliament”.
“Speaker you have ruled and we have asked you to rule the fact that there is no obligation on anyone to go to courts. If there is no obligation how can you boycott anything? Those who went to court went voluntarily. There is no problem in that. The judgment in Chandra Jayaratne’s case, Justice Amaratunga confirmed the fact that there is no obligation on anyone to go to courts. Furthermore unlike the Government members who are represented by the Attorney General, there was no relief was asked up to the 8th respondent. Our two members are the 9th and the 10th respondents. So, we had no reason to go to courts. And according to your ruling we did not go to courts. I have never told or banned anyone going accordance with their thinking. This is a part of campaign English media is taking on against the Parliament. We seem to be at the receiving end and I like to ask these papers – do you say that Parliament has no powers? This House represents almost 95 per cent of the people who voted at the Parliamentary elections. We have diverse opinions here. We must have our rights to express our views,” he said.
Giving a few examples on Parliamentary privileges for the benefit of the public as well as the newspapers, he said: “Courts jailed one of our Members of Parliament – General Sarath Fonseka. At that time the media was frightened to write anything about it. Even if we said anything they were afraid of getting hold up by the courts. They published only what we said in Parliament. I have challenged the Speaker and have spoken at length so that they can publish. That is the right I am trying to protect. There was a time in 2008/’09 when Tamil youth were disappearing and were under fire. When newspapers were refusing to carry, we had to come to this house and make statements for them to publish. That is the right I am referring now and the United National Party to say that you cannot move against the Chief Justice without following the proper procedure. That is all what we are saying. Is it wrong? It doesn’t say that just because we stand up for the same rights that we agree on the issue. Our view is you cannot proceed without following the judgment of Justice Amaratunga. Speaker, we have come to a position virtually that there is a constitutional crisis that needs to be resolved taking today and tomorrow.” (AH)