Pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa MP Johnston Fernando throws a chair at police creating a human shield to protect Speaker Karu Jayasuriya as he calls for a second vote on the no confidence motion in Parliament yesterday
– Pix by Upul Abayasekera
MP Arundika Fernando gestures after occupying the Speaker’s Chair in Parliament yesterday
- Pandemonium amidst passing of second no confidence motion on MR
- UPFA MPs launch all-out attack on police and Speaker, throw chili powder
- Several MPs and policemen receive minor injuries
- Unflappable Karu conducts sessions, calls vote, says motion passed before escorted by police
- Parliament adjourned till Monday
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
A second vote on the no confidence motion against MP Mahinda Rajapaksa passed yesterday with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya being forced to conduct the session from behind a human shield as Rajapaksa loyalists unleashed havoc in the House.
Regardless of President Maithripala Sirisena’s promise to party leaders on Thursday night to allow the vote to pass uninterrupted, UPFA MP Arundika Fernando occupied the Speaker’s Chair with the support of his colleagues who were loyal to MP Rajapaksa by forcefully standing on the Secretaries’ Platform.
The House assembly was delayed for over 45 minutes due to angry legislators protesting, demanding the arrest of UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma, who was caught on camera with what appeared to be a knife in his hand on Wednesday. UPFA MPs Wimal Weerawansa, together with Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi and Dilan Perera, led the slogans also demanding the arrest of UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake for grabbing the object from MP Thewarapperuma and keeping it with him.
“Palithaya pihi genawa” (Palitha brought knives), “Gon-Ranja pihi genawa” (Ranjan idiot brought knives), “Pihikaraya remand karau” (Remand the knifeman), “Karuwata enna kiyapiya, mewata uttara denna kiyapiya, berinam daala yanna kiyapiya” (Call Karu, demand answers, or if he can’t answer, resign), and “Oka tamai api kiwwe, mehema karala be kiwwe” (That is what we said, this is not going to work) were some of the slogans heard in Parliament with a few holding placards.
Unable to take control of the House, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was compelled to order the Parliament police unit into the Chamber to provide him the security required to commence the day’s business, which finally ended with violence, assault, bloodshed, and resentful behaviour of lawmakers in support of the Rajapaksa camp. Despite the UPFA lawmaker’s unruly behaviour, the UNP, JVP and the TNA lawmakers sat calmly, ignoring the insults aimed at them without getting involved. Forming a human chain, the police officers managed to accompany Speaker Jayasuriya, with the Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando carrying the mace into the Chamber.
The mock sitting continued, demanding the arrest of MP Thewarapperuma and MP Ramanayake. This demand was met by hoots from the Opposition benches. In the meantime, MP Dilan Perera was seen insulting UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera with offensive language and the irate MP replied using similarly offensive words.
Addressing the House, standing next to the Speaker’s Chair, UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa rejected accepting Speaker Jayasuriya while demanding to ensure safety of the lawmakers in the Parliament. “The Governments are elected by the people of this country and not by foreign countries. Let the people decide at a general election. I urge the Supreme Court to take the correct decision while thinking of the future stability of the country,” he said. Several representatives of foreign diplomatic missions were present in the gallery, witnessing the chaos.
MPs Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, Bandula Gunawardena and Mahindananda Aluthgamage also made speeches. UPFA MP Prasanna Ranaweera was seen guarding the closed door behind the Speaker’s Chair used by the Speaker to enter the Chamber. MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, who made a brief appearance at the House, walked out of the chamber while his fellow MPs continued to protest.
By that time, the UPFA MPs in protest had the official Chair of the Speaker removed from the Chamber. The first police officer who entered carried an extra chair for the Speaker and tried to move in the direction of the Speaker’s Chair. The furious UPFA MPs reacted violently at this point. MP Wimal Weerawansa grabbed the chair from the police officer and MP Johnston Fernando broke it into pieces before throwing the pieces back in the direction of the Speaker. Parliament staff and police held aloft cushion covers of the chairs to protect the Speaker, allowing him to commence the day’s business. At this point, the UPFA MPs threw thick bound books, chili powder mixed with water, and shoes in the direction of the Speaker and Police.
JVP MP Vijitha Herath and several Parliament police personnel sustained injuries. MPs Vijitha Herath, Malik Samarawickrama and Gamini Jayawickrama Perera were also attacked with water mixed with chili powder. The books hit several Opposition MPs, including Malik Samarawickrama.
The Speaker then commenced the sittings officially and Standing Orders were suspended by majority vote. All Opposition MPs who were in their seats supported the Speaker to carry on the proceedings. The no confidence motion against MP Mahinda Rajapaksa was placed before the House again, after removing the first Clause as agreed at the meeting with President Sirisena. The Speaker asked all MPs to go for a vote by name, but since the UPFA MPs ignored him, he took a voice vote. All Opposition MPs stood up from their seats, raised their hands and said “aye”. The Speaker then announced to the House that “the Ayes have it”, and the motion was carried while the UNF MPs cheered and applauded. The Speaker then adjourned the session till 19 November.