Ranjan Loses Seat: Chaos in Parliament
By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake
Chaos erupted in Parliament yesterday (7), when Opposition MPs staged a strong protest alleging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena of being biased and favouring the Government side.
The Speaker, commencing yesterday’s Sittings, announced that Ranjan Ramanayake who is imprisoned for contempt of court, ceased to be a Member of Parliament and accordingly there’s a vacant seat in Parliament with respect to the electoral district of Gampaha in terms of the Article 66 (d) of the Constitution.
He said, Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake had informed the Chairman of the Elections Commission as well. Notice has been issued by the Secretary General of Parliament in terms of Section 64 (1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act No. 01 of 1981, the Speaker said.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, speaking after the Oral Question Round said: “The Speaker announced that Ramanayake will lose his seat in Parliament under Section 66 (f) of the Constitution. You have taken this decision based on the fact that Ramanayake did not attend Sittings for three months.
If you remember we presented a Motion to approve leave for him in March but you refused to accept it saying that you could not do so, since there was a Court case pertaining to the matter. But now, you announce that Ramanayake’s seat will be vacant for the same reason. Also, Ramanayake’s writ petition was rejected by the Appeal Court. It means he has a chance to make an appeal in the Supreme Court. You know it very well too. We request you to give him that chance too.”
Speaker: I received a copy of the Appeal Court verdict on the matter. This decision was taken based on the Court verdict, not only due to his absence. I will give you a copy of that. You have to read it.
The Speaker at that moment was informed by a staff member that Ramanayake’s seat fell vacant not because of his absence from Sittings.
Premadasa: “This is what you said. I will read your announcement. In the letter you sent to the EC Chairman you clearly say that the seat falls vacant under Section 66 (F) of the Constitution. Then why did you reject the Motion when we presented requesting leaves Ramanayake? At that time you said since a court case is going on you cannot accept that. Now you are using the same Section of the Constitution for Ramanayake to lose his seat. How fair is this? Ramanayake still has a chance to go to the Supreme Court. Without considering that, you make this announcement. This is not fair.”
Speaker: “You have misunderstood this. Please read the entire court verdict and you will understand. The verdict clearly says that his seat fell vacant following a Supreme Court judgement.”
Premadasa: “Then answer me. Ramanayake has a right to challenge this in the Supreme Court, hasn’t he?”
Speaker: “Yes he has. Ask him to do that.”
Premadasa then said,“You sent a letter to the EC arbitration even without consulting the House about it. It is not ethical. Why are you behaving like this? This is very unfair.”
Minister Namal Rajapaksa intervening at this point,accused Premadasa claiming that the latter insulted the judiciary inside Parliament.
“Why is he even speaking about it? There is a clear verdict. Ramanayake insulted the judiciary outside Parliament. These people do the same inside Parliament. Do not let them behave like that.”
State Minister Nimal Lanza: “This Opposition is behaving like kindergarten kids. They do not know the legal provisions. The Speaker should not tolerate this. Why does this Opposition Leader speak on behalf of a womanizer?”
SJB Nalin Bandara: “The Speaker said Ramanayake’s seat fell vacant under Section 66 (f) of the Constitution. It means he lost his seat because he was absent for Sittings.”
The Speaker: “That is not correct.”
When Bandara tried to speak further, his microphone was taken away. The MP requested for the microphone several times repeatedly but the Speaker was heard saying he would not give the microphone.
The SJB MPs then started to shout angrily questioning as to why the Speaker did not allow them to talk. The Government MPs also hooted at the SJB MPs.
Then a group of MPs including Bandara went near the Speaker’s chair and started to question them. The Speaker made it clear that since he had already given microphone to Bandara to raise his Point of Order, he would not give the microphone again.
A group of Government MPs including Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage also came into the Well. Opposition MPs and Government MPs were seen arguing for several minutes.
When State Minister Arundika Fernando tried to go into the Well, Leader of the House Dinesh Guanwardena stopped him and said,
“Your statement is the next item. Go and read it.”
Fernando was seen going back to his seat.
Gunawardena then requested the Speaker to move the floor for the next item. However, the SJB MPs continued to argue and question the Speaker.
While the SJB was alleging that the Speaker was being biased, Aluthgamage was heard saying that the Speaker was too flexible towards the SJB.
Several staff members came near the Speaker and surrounded him while the MPs continued arguing in a heated manner.
Then the Speaker was heard requesting Bandara to go back to his seat.
“Go back your seat. There is no point of shouting here.”
He then asked Arundika Fernando to make his statement. However, Nalin Bandara repeatedly requested a Point of Order. He was finally given the chance.
“You all are acting biased. The Speaker gives more time to Government members like Lanza.”
Bandara stressed that the Speaker should take back the letter sent to the EC.
Although Arundika Fernando tried to speak, the SJB MPs continued to raise a Point of Order.
The Leader of the House moved the next item amidst the shouting.