Arming MPs: Data to be released soon

Gayantha Karunatilaka

Media and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gayantha Karunathileke yesterday said that he would reveal the statistics on the number of MPs who had applied for licenced firearms and the number of former MPs who had returned the firearms which were given to them while they were in the previous Parliament.

Addressing the weekly post-cabinet media briefing at the Government Information Department, Minister Karunathileke said that he was not aware of firearms training given for newly elected parliamentarians.

A group of parliamentarians underwent a two-day weapons training exercise at Special Task Force (STF) base at Katukurunda. Authroritative sources told The Island that some more would undergo training once they returned from China following a familiarisation tour.

He said that training MPs to handle firearms was not a practice insatiated by the present government. It had been there for decades, the Minister said.
The Minister noted that a majority of MPs including him had not obtained firearms. But there were a very few MPs who had got licenced firearms and he couldn’t reveal their names, but promised the journalist to provide the numbers without identifying the individuals.

The issuance of firearms did not come under parliamentary affairs and it was the responsibility of the Defence Ministry. Minister Karunathileke stressed.

Meanwhile Provincial Councils and Local Governments Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranavithana confirmed that he had also been given an application to obtain a licenced firearm but he had rejected it as he didn’t want such firearms or training.

Although there was no war threat now or in the future, the MPs might have their personal enemies.

When asked the reason why MPs were given firearms when they were given two trained bodyguards, Minister Paranavithana said that MPs were given licenced firearms as per the country’s laws pertaining to VIP security.

The Deputy Minister said that the Right to Information Act was now at the Attorney General’s Department and the clean draft of the Act would be presented to the Cabinet after bit was whetted by the AG.

Paranavithana assured that the local government elections would be held during the first quarter of next year under the new electoral system.

(The Island)