ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s chief opposition whip Lakshman Kiriella has formally complained to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) an alleged assault on opposition MP Manusha Nanayakkara.
In an official letter dated December 06, Kiriella claimed that a number of MPs representing the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had attempted to assault Nanayakkara on at least two occasions last Friday (03) and Saturday (04) at the parliament complex.
Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), which both Kiriella and Nanakkara represent, boycotted parliamentary sittings for a second day running on Tuesday (07) in protest of the incident and demanding that its members safety is guaranteed.
Writing to the secretaries general of the CPA and IPU, Kiriella claimed the “mafia type” attempted assault was a response by some government MPs to a speech made by Nanayakkara.
“This is not only a gross violation of an MP’s privileges, but it is also a scathing attack on the fundamental rights bestowed upon any human being,” wrote Kirella.
Describing the two incidents in detail, the opposition whip wrote that MP Nanayakkara on Friday had approached Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s table to discuss a time allocation issue, to which a group of government MPs had responded with obscene language and physical force. Other opposition members and parliamentary staff had intervened and escorted the MP to safety, he said.
On the following day, one state minister had verbally abused Nanayakkara and, according to Kiriella, “threatened to murder him”. Later that day, he claimed, around 15 government MPs including the state minister in question had approached Nanayakkara with the “obvious intention of assaulting him and/or attacking him”.
“The said MPs continued to verbally assault him, screaming obscenities and threatening bodily harm. Fortunately, due to the intervention of other fellow members of parliament representing the opposition and parliamentary staff, he was able to escape aforesaid violent situation for the second consecutive day,” said Kiriella.
The Kandy district MP said the twin attacks were unprovoked and intended to be malicious and deter opposition lawmakers from exercising their freedom of speech, inquiry and debate, and to suppress the voice of the people.
“I kindly call upon you, as the Secretary General of the Inter Parliamentary Union, to intervene and take all the measures required to prevent any further undemocratic actions by the government and to safeguard the parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka,” he said.
The Speaker of Parliament, meanwhile, said on Monday (06) that a committee comprising senior government and opposition members will be appointed to investigate the matter.
“Some ugly incidents had taken place in the parliament premises on Friday and Saturday. As MPs and responsible citizens, it’s important that you help uphold the dignity of the House. Respecting standing orders and following House regulations are things that need our special attention,” the Speaker told lawmakers Monday morning.
However, chief government whip Johnston Fernando told parliament on Monday that MP Nanayakkara had approached the Speaker last Friday with the intention of attacking him.
“Our duty is to ensure your protection. As long as we’re here, we will not allow anyone to attack you,” said Fernando.
SJB MPs staged a protest outside the parliament complex on Monday demanding swift action against the incident.