Sajith slams Bandula for ‘misleading public’

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Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa launched a scathing attack on Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (10), stressing that the latter falsely claimed that the Offences Against Public Property Act cannot be applied to the incidents occurring inside the Parliament Chamber.

The Opposition Leader requested Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to make a statement clarifying the matter.

On Tuesday (9) during the Cabinet Media briefing, Gunawardena said property damage and other incidents related to Parliament cannot be dealt with under the regular law of the country, and the matter could only be addressed within Parliament and that it cannot be even questioned by the Courts.

Gunawardena made this claim, when a journalist questioned him on the fairness of cracking down on protesters who occupied State buildings on 9 July, when MPs who damaged Parliament property under the former government are yet to be arrested.

In response to Gunawardena’s claim, Premadasa said the Cabinet Spokesman misled the country with regard to the violence and property damage which occurred in the Parliament Chamber during the ‘52-day conspiracy’ in 2018.

“Are Parliamentarians exempted from the Penal Code and Offences Against Public Property Act? Gunawardena is sending a wrong message to the country that there is a separate law inside Parliament,” Premadasa said.

Gunawardena, replying to Premadasa, said he only stated that MPs have parliamentary privileges and the MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested, as they are engaged in legislative activities.

At this juncture, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said parliamentary privileges only prevent MPs from being arrested when they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, who intervened in the discussion, said all laws in the country are applicable to MPs, and no one is exempted from the country’s criminal laws under the Parliament Powers and Privileges Act.

By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake