Parliament brawl: MR wants police probe halted

Mahinda Rajapaksa is at parliament

The UPFA MPs, led by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, yesterday, urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to stop CID investigations into the unruly incidents in the Chamber on Nov 14, 15 and 16 on the basis lawmakers were protected by the parliamentary privileges.

The UPFA appealed to Speaker Jayasuriya after the latter had tabled the report of the Special Parliamentary Committee that investigated the incidents. The report was forwarded to the Parliament Ethics and Privileges Committee.

The UPFA MPs expressed their displeasure at handing over the investigations into the incidents to the Police. However, Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella declared that the law of the land couldn’t be suppressed by parliamentary privileges. He dismissed the UPFA’s arguments against proceeding with the police inquiry.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that the report would be discussed at a party leaders’ meeting. Pointing out that police investigations had dealt with attacks on MPs, Speaker Jayasuriya emphasised that he could not interfere with them.

UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena said that a UPFA team, led by Opposition Leader Rajapaksa, had met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, to discuss this matter.

Gunawardena told the Speaker: “We are interested in safeguarding the rights of the MPs. The Prime Minister agreed that we should not allow matters covered by our privileges to be dealt with by the Police.

Our MPs are being summoned by Police in relation to the report of the Deputy Speaker. We are protected by the privileges Act. If you say our MPs can be summoned by the Police for an incident within the Chamber of the House, then our privileges have no meaning. You have to protect the privileges and rights of MPs. You have to make a very clear decision. You should have a special Party Leaders’ Meeting on this.”

The Speaker replied that the PM, too, had agreed when it pointed out by him that police investigations should not be interfered with. “There is a separate Police investigation. That happened because two of your MPs complained against me to Police, who recorded a statement from me,” the Speaker commented.

Opposition Leader Rajapaksa said that it was not proper for external parties such as Police to investigate incidents inside the Chamber. “The Speaker has the power even to mete out punishment.”

MP Bandula Gunawardena observed that previous instances of brawls in Parliament had never been taken to Police or court. “Parliament is supreme and we must solve our problems ourselves.”

UPFA MP S B Dissanayake urged the Speaker to deal with the report within the provisions of Parliament Privileges Act.

The UNP backbencher countered the claims by the UPFA MPs while urging the Speaker to take stern actions against the MPs who had misbehaved in the House.

The Speaker, while observing that he did not intend to drag this issue unnecessarily, said: “We will take a decision following the conclusion of a parliamentary inquiry based on the committee report. But what if there was a murder inside the chamber after getting hit by the chair which was thrown at the police officers. The Speaker cannot take the responsibility for that. Therefore, the Police are investigating it and we cannot interfere with the probe.”

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)