Easter Sunday Attacks Become a Decisive Factor in Govt Retaining Power

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 27 2021
Ceylon Politics Easter Sunday Attacks Become a Decisive Factor in Govt Retaining Power
By Gagani Weerakoon

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after declaring open the Golden Gate Kalyani, the newly constructed extradosed bridge on Wednesday (24) said that law can be enforced through an Act of Parliament against culprits revealed by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks appointed by the previous Government. 

He also pointed out that the PCoI has made recommendations that the then Government, including the former President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet should be held responsible for the attacks. 

“It has been referred to the Parliament, the Attorney General, and the CID to take further action, he said.  The Government has the two-thirds majority (2/3) required for this purpose,” he said while urging the Opposition to be vigilant when making demands and not to deceive the public.

These remarks, as expected, did not sit well with many. 

Former President Maithripala Sirisena, in what appears to be a warning, told the Government, in Parliament on Thursday (25), not to be overconfident of the 2/3 majority as it is wielded by the 14 SLFP MPs in the House. 

In response to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s recent claims on extravagant expenses of former President, Sirisena warned Aluthgamage and other ruling party members, who criticise coalition allies, not to throw stones while living in a glass house. 

He recalled the Sri Lankan political history where former Governments collapsed owing to coalition allies withdrawing support.   

Since 1948, all the Governments needed the support of other parties. Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake resigned from the then UNP Government and that party never recovered after that. Same thing happened during the tenure of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. In 2014, I resigned from the Government due to fair concerns and contested the Presidential Election as the common candidate. It was the end of that Government, he pointed out. 

Therefore, it is better to act in a wise and responsible manner regarding the Government’s 2/3 majority in Parliament. It should be remembered that the 2/3 majority is wielded by the 14 MPs representing the SLFP. So, it should be very clear what will happen if someone wants to fight. This is a Coalition Government. People need to learn from history, he warned. 

This verbal confrontation occurred when Sirisena responded to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthagamage’s recent claims regarding expenditure incurred by Sirisena during his Presidency. 

“First, Aluthgamage said that I amalgamated three houses to build my official residence. I challenged him to prove it and said I will resign from the Parliament seat, if the accusation is correct. He did not say anything about it thereafter.”

Sirisena criticised Aluthgamage, saying a Minister of the Government carrying out a ‘mudslinging’ campaign against another Government member is unacceptable.

 “I am saddened to see this happen again and again. During the Committee Stage debate on the President’s Expenditure, Head Aluthgamage again accused me of using 200 vehicles during my Presidency. This is a blatant lie. He tried to paint me as a President who wasted money while saying that the current President saves money. This is just wrong.” 

He also requested leaders of the Government not to let the same thing happen in the future. 

Dayasiri backs Maithri

Speaking after Sirisena, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara launched a scathing attack on Aluthgamage. 

“If Aluthagamge made those remarks on one occasion, we can let it pass. But he is repeating the same conduct. We cannot simply let it go when he insults the former President and the leader of the SLFP MPs’ group. Aluthgamage is like a dancing peacock. He thinks that what he does is great, but it only uncovers his disgraceful behaviour,” the State Minister stressed. 

He said that the former President had spent Rs 3.5 billion. This money was spent for seven projects on rural area development; eradicating CKDu etc. he only used three vehicles during the Presidency. Former President Sirisena never used 200 vehicles like Aluthagamage said, Jayasekara asserted. 

The situation was triggered, when Aluthagamge responded to Jayasekara later in the day and said that he is ready if the former President wants to confront him. 

“Jayaskera had criticised me earlier when I was out of the Chamber.  He said that if one digs into my conduct, they would find it horribly stinks. Who accepted cheques from Arjun Aloysius? We can also dig into others’ conduct. I only said the incumbent President had set an example by saving a total of Rs 1.7 billion,” Aluthagamage said. 

“The former President also said that I was responsible for the criticisms levelled at the Government. I am the Minister of Agriculture and I defend the green economy policy. That is my duty,” he said. 

Sirisena who responded, again said, “Aluthgamage made a very impulsive and sensitive speech. He even said that he is ready for any fight. Well, we do not want to fight. We only pity those who want to fight. But if we want to attack someone, we will not do it in Aluthgamage’s way. We have other methods to do things that others cannot even imagine.”

“There is no problem in Aluthagamage praising the current President. The Leader of the House said the same thing. That is fine. But the problem is that he does that by comparing expenditures during my Presidency. I do not want him to throw stones while living in a glass house, he said.” 

“I also set examples compared to the Presidents who ruled the country before me. I did not use helicopters like they did. I did not travel like they did. So if they want to fight, then there will be a huge problem. We are ready to fight, but we do not know what kind of casualties there would be.”

Speaking further, Sirisena said that it is okay to build the image of the current President. “But people should not attack us while doing so. We are also in the same Government with your leader (the President). So there is no problem. I do not want to ‘play boxing’ with anyone. But it does not mean that I am incapable of playing,” he added. 

He then went on criticising Aluthgamage severely claiming that the latter is the sole reason for the people’s hate towards the Government at the moment. 

“He lied to the President, the Government, the Cabinet and the people, especially farmers. This is why the people hate this Government today. People set fire to effigies of Government leaders today and Aluthgamage’s conduct led to people doing so. You (Aluthgamage) always say that you have some evidence and records against us. Why are you hiding them then? I have decades-long experience in politics. So, I know the reason behind such statements,” he stressed. 

Commenting on the possible consequences of SLFP withdrawing support, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura Dr. Visaka Suriyabandara said the Government’s authority would come into question if the SLFP quits the Government.

That would impact many Government plans, including the one to bring in a new Constitution, she noted.

Dr. Suriyabandara said the Government would be largely impacted with the loss of backing by a major party, and that it would have repercussions on the State mechanism as well, thereby leading to a legitimacy issue of the Government.

Speaker Regrets 

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena expressed his regret over SLPP MP Janaka Tissakuttiarachchi’s sexist remarks levelled at SJB MP Rohini Wijeratne and the Opposition Leader’s wife in Parliament on 20 November.

He warned the SLPP MP not to repeat the same conduct in the Chamber ever, after the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus requested him to take a stance on the matter on Monday (22). MP Wijeratne also raised a privilege matter on the same day against the remarks made by Tissakuttiarachchi. 

The Speaker expressed his regret over MP Tissakuttiarachchi’s derogatory and sexist remarks made in the Chamber on a previous day, and warned that stern action will be taken if such statements are made by any MP in Parliament in future. He advised both the Chief Government Whip and Chief Opposition Whip to educate MPs in their camps to avoid such situations in future. 

Chaos erupted in the Parliament Chamber on Tuesday (23) when Tissakuttiarachchi refused to apologise for his sexist remarks.

Triggered by this refusal, SJB MPs Hesha Withanage and Chaminda Wijesiri were seen charging towards the ruling party MP. Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa quickly intervened, while Fernando stopped the two MPs from crossing the Well of the Chamber. 

A few MPs from the ruling party including Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando, Indika Anuruddha and Kanchana Wijesekera were there at the scene. The MPs were seen accusing each other using unparliamentary language and pushing each other. The Serjeant-at-Arms who was in the middle of the melee was seen losing his balance and almost hit the floor. 

Tissakuttiarachchi, despite finding himself in hot water, refused to apologise, and this led the Opposition MPs to protest against him. 

He said he did not make any sexist remark against Rohini Wijeratne or any other woman. 

“I only mentioned names of vegetables. I do not see any problem in that. You see my remarks as vulgar because your minds are vulgar. It is a problem of your minds, not mine,” he said. 

Although the Speaker said it was better that Tissakuttiarachchi made an apology rather than trying to defend his conduct, the latter continued the impulsive speech, saying that he would not apologise, until Rohini Wijeratne makes it clear to him how using names of vegetables become sexually derogatory terms. 

Several parliamentarians including State Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella, SJB MPs Thalatha Atukorale, Nalin Bandara, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and JJB MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya condemned the sexist remarks against female MPs in Parliament. 

MP Ajith Rajapakse said he did not hear Tissakuttiarachchi’s sexist remarks while he was presiding the sitting on 20 November. 

Tissakuttiarachchi used indirect sexual slurs, using names of vegetables in the Parliament Chamber on 20 November in response to Rohini Wijeratne’s speech made on the previous day (19). 

The Opposition MPs strongly condemned the remarks made by Tissakuttiarachchi and requested SLPP MP Ajith Rajapakse, the Chairperson who presided the sitting to remove those remarks from the Hansard. However, Rajapakse said he did not hear any derogatory terms from Tissakuttiarachchi and refused to remove them. He said he would convey the matter to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. 

SJB MPs staged a protest in Parliament Chamber on Thursday (25) in protest over violence against women.

The MPs were seen wearing orange coloured ribbons around their arms. They also had stickers on their attires that stated ‘Stop Violence against Women’.

This protest had taken place following Tissakuttiarachchi’s verbal sexual slurs made against Wijeratne and the Opposition Leader’s wife in Parliament Chamber on 20 November.

Wijeratne, addressing the House, said that the protest was to mark ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women’ that fell on 25 November.

She said, “It is reported that one out of every five women in Sri Lanka goes through physical abuse or other forms of abuse. Even when something like that happens in this Parliament no action is taken against it. No punishment imposed against such actions either. Issuing warnings alone is not enough to prevent abuse.  It is because of this, perpetrators continue to walk free when women are harassed and abused by them. Victims are suffering because of this situation.”

Indian Diplomat in controversy 

Consul General of India in Jaffna, Raakesh Natraj Jayabhaskaran, formally launched the ‘Karthikai Vaasam’ flower garden in Nallur Kittu Park, Jaffna on 20 November by wearing a Niyagala flower (karthigaipoo), which was used as the LTTE’s official flower.

The Tamil National Green Organisation (TNGO) staged a floral garden called ‘Karthikai Vaasam,’ where Niyagala flowers were pinned on participants, including the Consul General of India, ahead of Northern Tree Planting Month.

According to the event’s organisers, the inaugural event was attended by the TNGO’s Leader, Tamil environmentalist and former provincial minister P. Ayngaranesan, Jaffna Municipal Councillor V. Parthiban, and many more.

To mark Tree Planting Month, guests donned Niyagala flowers and were given free seedlings and flowers. 

He added that Colonel Kittu’s memorial park in Nallur was created in 1994 in his honour. It is frequently used for community events such as tree-planting every year.

Multiple District Courts have issued event bans ranging from 21 November to 28 November to disrupt commemorations ahead of ‘Maaveerar Vaaram,’ the week of remembering preceding Maaveerar Naal on 27 November.

Karthikai Vaasam will be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on 26 November.

Meanwhile, the Consulate General of India in Jaffna, in a statement issued on 22 November 2021, said: “We have seen several incorrect Media reports regarding the inauguration of a Green Exhibition and distribution of plant saplings by Consul General of India in Jaffna at Sangiliyan Park in Nallur, Jaffna on 20 November 2021. He had attended this event upon invitation and such participation can in no way be associated with the organisers or their acts, outside the official programme, about which he had no prior information.”

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 27 2021

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