By Gagani Weerakoon
Both government and Opposition Chief Whips were engaged in a heated argument yesterday, over calling for a quorum three times on Wednesday, following a government MP demanding the Deputy Speaker to expel the UNP parliamentarian who maintained that Parliament should be set ablaze.
Chief Government Whip, Minister Dinesh Gunawadena brought it to the notice of the Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody, that UNP members got the chair to ring the bell calling for a quorum three times to ridicule the Parliament.
“When the first quorum was called at 3.40 p.m., there were 54 ruling party members present in the premises, whereas only 26 from the Opposition. Our members were all engaged in important committees, including the COPE, Public Accounts Committee and the Petitions Committee. I demand through you that the new MP who made this remark should withdraw his statement,” Gunawardena said.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe rose and said he will look into the matter and noted that none of the members of his party want to see the Parliament ablaze.
“This is a beautiful building and we consider it a pride. None of us UNPers want to see it ablaze.”
At this point an irate Gunawardena said it is the UNP that has a history of setting fire to buildings and people.
“We remember how you used to set fire to properties and people in 1983. It is out of habit that UNP talks about setting things ablaze when it comes to July,” he said, recalling the memories of the 1983 July riots, which provoked Opposition Whip John Amaratunga to respond.
As the two Whips engaged in their argument, UPFA member A.H.M. Azwer rose to a Point of Order and demanded that the MP, Ajith P. Perera, who let parliament down by calling for it to be demolished, should be expelled.
“Our Whip only demanded the withdrawal of his statement, but I go a step further and demand that a motion should be moved to expel the said member,” he added.
Deputy Speaker Weerakkody said it proves members from either party have acted irresponsibly.
“If both sides behave in such a manner and with a sense of responsibility, the honour of Parliament will also be safeguarded and the media will not have a chance to report anything that would compromise the dignity of the House,” he said.