Sri Lanka parliament sees worst brawl in 12 years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament erupted in brawls between rival lawmakers today after ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka announced that a bomb blast apparently targeting Gotabhaya Rajapaksa 10 years ago was an "inside job".

MPs from Sri Lanka’s ruling party traded blows with those loyal to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who became enraged after Fonseka said the 2006 bombing was aimed at winning sympathy for the then-ruling family.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said several lawmakers were injured and MP Sandith Samarasinghe was later taken to hospital suffering a black eye after the worst melee seen in the legislature house in 12 years.

In June 2004, the then-government MPs led by Mervyn Silva attcked JHU Buddhist monk MP Kolonnawe Sumangala who suffered a serious penile injury and was hospitalised for days.

Following Tuesday’s fighting, the Speaker adjourned the assembly till tomorrow.

"I am deeply saddened by the behaviour of MPs in storming the well of the House and attacking each other, while Field Marshall Fonseka was explaining (security arrangements for Rajapaksa)," said Jayasuriya, who was forced to suspend proceedings for the day.

Fonseka said the December 2006 bomb attack blamed on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels had been stage managed by the president’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 during a debate on scaling down military security granted to the former strongman leader. "The terrorists are not fools."

The government has said it is removing troops in Rajapaksa’s bodyguard and replacing them with police commandos as part of a policy of relieving the military from civilian security duties.

Gotabhaya escaped the 2006 bombing in Colombo unhurt, but it killed two members of his military convoy.

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Soon after the attack, the government asked peacebroker Norway to halt all contacts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Colombo withdrew from a truce and eventually crushed the rebels by May 2009.

The former army chief led the successful military campaign against the Tigers, but later fell out with the Rajapaksa family over who should take credit for the spectacular military success.

He launched a failed challenge to Rajapaksa in the 2010 elections, and was later jailed for two and a half years on corruption charges.

The former army general has since been exonerated of all charges and elevated to the rank of field marshal; by Rajapaksa’s successor, Maithripala Sirisena.

The general himself was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing in April 2006.

He recovered to lead the military in wiping out the rebel leadership in a no-holds-barred offensive that also sparked allegations of war crimes. (COLOMBO, May 3, 2016)

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