Speaker condemns brawl
Deputy Speaker commences analysis of CCTV footage to find those responsible for the fight
Fonseka alleges Gota staged his own assassination attempt by suicide bomber in 2006
Refers to Joint Opposition as “Kirulapone Gang”
By Ashwin Hemmathagama
Parliament became the scene of a major brawl yesterday after former Army Chief and MP Sarath Fonseka told the House that a bomb explosion apparently targeting former Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ten years ago was an “inside job”.
Ruling party MPs clashed with members of the Joint Opposition, resulting in several injuries and the worst brawl in the country’s legislature since 2004 after Fonseka’s revelations during a debate on the withdrawal of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s military security. Field Marshall Fonseka’s remarks enraged Joint Opposition members intensely loyal to the former President.
Fonseka alleged that the bombing was aimed at winning sympathy for the former ruling family.
UNP MP Sandith Samarasinghe was transferred to hospital after he sustained a black eye and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said several parliamentarians had been injured in the clashes. After receiving first aid at the Parliament Medical Centre, MP Samarasinghe was transferred to the Colombo National Hospital for further treatment.
The last occasion on which the national legislature has turned into the scene of such a bad brawl was in June 2004, when UPFA MPs attacked Buddhist monks elected on the JHU ticket.
After yesterday’s fisticuffs, Speaker Jayasuriya adjourned sessions until 1PM today.
“I strongly condemn the incident,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told parliament. “Several members were injured and one legislator has been hospitalised,” he said as he suspended the sittings for the day.
Fonseka said the December 2006 attack blamed on the LTTE had been stage-managed by the President Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the then defence secretary.
“No terrorist will set off a suicide bomb 25 meters away from the intended target,” Fonseka told Parliament yesterday amidst howls of protest from members of the pro-Rajapaksa UPFA faction. “The terrorists are not fools,” the former Army Chief claimed.
On Monday the Government withdrew Rajapaksa’s full contingent of military security, about 102 soldiers assigned to his protection, and replaced them with personnel from the elite Special Task Force, that comes under the Police Department.
The question on the former President’s security was raised by Joint Opposition Convenor Dinesh Gunewardane, who said Mahinda Rajapaksa’s security had to be considered as a special case. “The Leader of the House assured last month that his military protection would be retained,” Gunewardane charged, requesting the Prime Minister to reconsider reassigning the army detail to the former Head of State.
In response Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe offered to add more security personnel from police or the Special Task Force (STF) but not from the military. “We all want the former President and Kurunegala District UPFA MP Mahinda Rajapaksa to be protected,” Wickremesinghe said. Referring to Rajapaksa as his “friend”, the Premier said that the Cabinet had decided that all VIP protection was to be tasked with the Police Department.
Bringing out global examples using police for VVIP security detail, Wickremesinghe said: “Former US President George Bush has a police protection regardless of the threats posed by terrorists including the ISIS. Tony Blair brought police officers to Sri Lanka when he visited. Ministers are more than willing to increase the number of police officers or to provide Special Task Force security detail to MP Rajapaksa. Even the President and I receive police protection,” the Premier responded.
On the Premier’s request, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka explained that when 60 security personnel had been afforded to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, then President Rajapaksa had sought a Supreme Court order and reduced it to 30. “That was unethical. So, he has not right to talk about his protection only,” Fonseka charged.
Fonseka said the “Kirulapone Gang”, in reference to the Joint Opposition, was deliberately ignoring the fact that during the 2010 election campaign, the Commissioner of Elections had ordered the Government to provide security for him, as a candidate. “When the election results were coming out, my security was withdrawn in five minutes,” he said. “I was imprisoned without any protection along with the worst terrorists in the country,” Fonseka recalled. He said that despite being the former Army Commander who led the troops to victory in 2009, even he had only 15 police officials for his security. “Meanwhile President MP Rajapaksa has 200 policemen,” he charged.