By Gagani Weerakoon & Sarasi Paranamanna
Parliament was suspended for five minutes following a ruling that Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Parliamentary Group Leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake was speaking out of order and was ordered to wind up his speech.
Legislators from both sides began trading insults following Dissanayake’s references, made in Parliament, to the Katuwana twin murder. The Chair, government member A.H.M. Azwer ordered the speech to be concluded as the MP deviated from the topic of debate, in violation of the Standing Orders.
Two JVP activists were killed in Katuwana last Friday.
Government members opposed Dissanayake’s demand for justice on behalf of the two murdered JVP activists, while participating in a debate to discuss regulations under the Fisheries Ministry.
MP Dissanayake told the House fisher folk in Katuawana lived in perpetual fear after a public rally was marred by violence unleashed by government-backed goons. At this point, Puttalam District UPFA Parliamentarian, Victor Antony raised a point of order the JVP group leader was not speaking according to the matter at hand, insisting that Dissanayake was allocated time to speak on the regulations and not to discuss the Katuwana murders.
Azwer also ruled all references that did not fall within the ambit of the subject matter be expunged from the Hansard, Parliament’s official record.
However, MP Dissanayake insisted he was speaking about the security concerns of the Katuwana fisher folk and therefore was not out of order.
Initial objections were raised by MP Antony but Dissanayake was allowed to speak by the Chair as the issues raised were connected to the fisheries industry. He was ruled out of order when objections were raised a second time by a number of government members.
Dissanayake continuously linked the Katuwana killings to the fisheries debate and MP Azwer who was chairing at the time, warned the MP six times. He next ordered the immediate conclusion of the speech as per Section 73 of the Standing Orders and called the next person on the day’s speakers’ list.
At this point, opposition MPs demanded from the Chair that MP Dissanayake be allowed to make his speech. Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga, UNP MPs Sajith Premadasa, Palitha Range Bandara, Palitha Thevarapperuma and DNA MPs Tiran Alles and Jayantha Ketagoda vociferously objected to the Chair’s decision.
The ruling party members including Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena, Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, MPs Namal Rajapaksa and Lohan Ratawatte denounced the opposition for calling for a reversal of an order given by the Chair. The government members were seen thumping on their desks amidst catcalls compelling the Chair to suspend the House for five minutes.
When the House reconvened, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody presided. Chief Opposition Whip, John Amaratunga raising a point of order requested the JVP MP be allowed to speak. “Otherwise there is no democracy in this House,” he said.
MP Dissanayake’s attempt to continue was cut short by the presiding officer who cited the special statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the same subject just the previous morning. Weerakkody ruled that two speeches on the same issue could not be allowed. He said it was contrary to the traditions of the House to reverse an order given by the Chair. If other issues existed about the Chair’s ruling, they should be taken up at the next party leaders’ meeting, he said.