ECONOMYNEXT – Several recordings tabled by legislator Ranjan Ramanayake not only contained conversations involving domestic affairs but also foreign relations, Sri Lanka’s parliament was told, as government members objected to their contents being made public.
Opposition members vigorously opposed what they said were attempts to ‘suppress’ the tapes, since they were seen as damaging to the ruling party and any blocking will set a bad precedent over the rights of members to table documents in the future.
Government member Wijedasa Rajapaksha said the speaker should not make the contents of the tapes public as they were said to contain obscene conversations, though agreement had been reached at an earlier meeting among party leaders to remove some sections and release the contents.
The Speakers name will go down in history with a black mark if the contents were made public, Rajapaksha said.
The tapes that were broadcasted over television and social media appeared to show Ramanayake allegedly in conversations with judges, reporters, female colleagues, starlets, and other personalities.
Some of the more racier conversations were released over social media.
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said there were some conversations in the tabled recordings where senior politicians were talking in disparaging terms about certain foreign countries.
“These conversations may damage foreign relations,” he warned.
He said there was no question of party leaders approving the tabling the tapes since they were already tabled.
Other members said there were alleged conversations involving wives of ministers and they should not be made public. The people involved were not in parliament, they said.
If the House opposes the release of the tape, he can consider it, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said.
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Dissanyake objecting said he opposed anyone trying to stop members from tabling documents.
“When the tapes were originally tabled nobody raised objections,” he said.
“Only now objections are being raised.”
Representatives from parties had gone over the tapes to gauge what contents should be redacted.
JVP legislators dismissed claims that releasing the tapes would bring the house to disrepute.
There had been occasions when chili was thrown and other acts had happened within parliament but no action had been taken, his colleague Bimal Ratnayake
Ratnayake said it will set a bad precedent, if the tapes were suppressed.
“The time will come when opposition members will have to seek government permission to table documents,” he warned.
Ratnayake said he had no objection to any ‘unparliamentary’ language from being removed from the contents as is the usual custom.
The legislator at the centre of the debate Ranjan Ramanayake, who had apparently taped over 100,000 telephone conversation which are now in police custody, said he was currently in remand sandwiched in between Udayanga Weeratunga and Kapila Chandrasena though he had not stolen anything.
Ramanayake said it was not correct to block him from releasing the tapes, when others were broadcasted over the media.
“Tapes had been taken and broadcasted over television. Some carefully chosen tapes were broadcasted,” he said.
“I also have a right to make public tapes to show the true situation. If I cannot come to the Speaker to redress my grievance to whom should I go?” he asked.
His colleague Harin Fernando said attempts were now being made to suppress Ramanayake’s tapes after cherry-picked tapes were released on the media and it was wrong to suppress the tapes according to the wishes of government members.
The speaker said there seems to be two opinions on the issue. (Colombo/Feb18/2020-SB)