Alleged attack on Thilanga heats up House

Saturday, 7 April 2018 00:43 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Speaker agrees to investigation, Navin rejects accusations of involvement 
  • Karu says Thilanga resigned from Deputy Speaker position a month ago
  • JO and UNP trade barbs over allegations of attack during No-Confidence Motion 

By Ashwin Hemmathagama

Parliament yesterday heated up over the alleged attack on Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala during Wednesday’s No-Confidence Motion, with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya agreeing to conduct an investigation into the matter. 

Joint Opposition (JO) Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said it was an important matterwhich could disrupt the Parliamentary system in the country and charged Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake for the incident.

However, Dissanayake informed the House that he had no involvement and demanded an investigation using the CCTV footage and the Police constables on duty inside the Parliament at the time of the incident. 

“This is my 18th year in Parliament. Since then I have not actedin violation of the self-respect of any other lawmaker. I can assure this. I have acted protecting my self-respect. My father was a well-respected politician in this country. He was the Deputy Leader of the UNP and also a good friend of MP Dinesh Gunawardena. I am concerned about the statement MP Gunawardena, made dragging me into this. Please conduct an investigation into this. There is CCTV footage and the two constables who were there will bear witness. I will also make a statement to the Police. But it is quite visible that Thilanga Sumathipala has acted in violation of the impartiality of his office,” said Dissanayake.

Bringing the matter to the Speaker’s attention, MP Gunawardena highlighted the importance of Parliamentary hierarchy and the responsibility of the House to uphold the background to execute the duties of each appointee.

“There is a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker, and Chairman of Committees in the Parliament. They are appointed by the House and assigned with different tasks. The entire Parliamentary system faces a crisis if these appointees are not allowed to execute their duties due to threats. Now the entire nation knows that Deputy Speaker Sumathipala was threatened with removal from office. This happened right in front of your chamber during the No-Confidence Motion debate,” he said.

“Many members have witnessed this incident. It is the responsibility of all members to provide you the assurance to work from your high office. This applies to all other designations. The Deputy Speaker has lodged a complaint with the Police highlighting life threats. This is an issue which should go to the Police but ideally get sorted in front of the Speaker. Minister Dissanayake has made a statement that he is not involved in this incident. You would have noticed that the Deputy Speaker is reluctant to take over the Chair when you vacate. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to assure the safety for him to execute the duties of the office of the Deputy Speaker,” added MP Gunawardena.

In response, Speaker Jayasuriya said: “One month before the Deputy Speaker approached me to inform that he is involved in political activities and will not execute the duties of his post sometimes, so this is the reason he is not taking over the seat of the Speaker. He also informed that his resignation was tendered to the President a month before.”

However, Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy Development and Leader of the House of Parliament Lakshman Kiriella charged MP Sumathipala of tarnishing the respect of the office of the Deputy Speaker. 

“The Speaker has agreed to conduct an investigation into this matter, so it is not required to provide unnecessary publicity for this matter and tarnish the image of this House. During the Party Leader’s meeting another incident came up. It is that Deputy Speaker Sumathipala has taken part in a press conference held against the Prime Minister but organised by a Government MP. He has also misinterpreted the Standing Orders, stating that a secret vote can be called for the No-Confidence Motion. This is wrong. A secret vote can only be obtained for appointing a Speaker and to appoint a President from the Parliament. Sothis shows his partial behaviour, which led to such consequences. Every day he washes dirty linen in public,” said Kiriella.