Action sought on 59 MPs
By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
The report of the committee appointed to look into the unruly behaviour of legislators in Parliament last year, which was tabled in the House recently, has recommended action against a total of 59 parliamentarians for the violation of the (Powers and Privileges) Act of Parliament.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, who chaired the Committee appointed to look into the matters pertaining to the incidents that took place in Parliament on 14, 15, and 16 November last year, said that the report had been forwarded to the Committee on Powers and Privileges.
Other committee members are MPs Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Bimal Rathnayaka, and Mavai Senathirajah.
However, MPs Chamal Rajapaksa and Chandrasiri Gajadeera, who were nominated to the Committee representing the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), refused to join the functions of the Committee.
The Committee investigated the incidents with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Department, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and Sri Lanka Police.
Kumarasiri noted that the Powers and Privileges Committee would allow the parliamentarians who were identified by the previous committee to explain their side of the story, following which they would recommend suitable action against the culprits.
“In our committee, we didn’t allow them to give reasons. So this committee would give them that opportunity. What we did in our committee was review the video committee,” he added.
After reviewing the report, the Speaker will decide on the actions that should be taken against the MPs.
Action against MPs
According to the committee report, MP Johnston Fernando committed approximately 16 such offences. The report further stated that Prasanna Ranaweera committed 12 offences, Wimal Weerawansa committed 10, nine each for Padma Udaya Shantha and Priyankara Jayaratne, seven by Mahindananda Aluthgamage, and nine by Ananda Aluthgamage.
Other MPs, S.B. Dissanayake, Piyal Nishantha, Dilan Perera, Dinesh Gunawardena, Lohan Ratwatte, Jayantha Samaraweera, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Thilanga Sumathipala, Dilum Amunugama, Sisira Jayakody, Kanchana Wijesekera, Susantha Punchinilame, Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, Ranjith Soysa, S.M. Chandrasena, D.D. Chanaka, Arundika Fernando, Dullas Alahapperuma, Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Shehan Semasinghe, Thenuka Nanayakkara, Anuradha Jayaratne, Sarathi Dushmantha, Sanath Nishantha, Kanaka Herath, Udaya Gammanpila, Saranath Basnayake, Nimal Lanza, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Ramesh Pathirana, Vijitha Berugoda , Mohan Priyankara, Roshan Ranasinghe, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, C.B. Ratnayake, T.B. Ekanayake, Lakshman Yapa, Tharaka Balasuriya, Janaka Wakkumbura, Bandula Gunawardena, Niroshan Premaratne, Salinda Dissanayake, Premalal Jayasekara, and Dilip Wedaarachchi were charged for eight offences, according to the report.
UNP MPs Palitha Thewarapperuma, Chandima Gamage, Ranjan Ramanayake, and Thushara Indunil have also been cited while JVP MP Vijitha Herath was also named.
Soon after the report was submitted, the Opposition parliamentarians claimed the report was biased towards the United National Party (UNP).
Accordingly, the Committee observed that as per the video footage and electronic evidence thoroughly studied, it was evident that the members had committed the offences that came under the purview of the relevant paragraphs and sections of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act.
The Committee further stated that certain MPs who took part in this chain of events had done so on previous occasions as well, in violation of disciplined conduct in Parliament, and disciplinary action has been taken by Parliament against them.
Highlighting Section 3 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Amendment Act, the Committee stated that the aggressive conduct and hostile activities perpetrated by the MPs couldn’t be accepted as actions appropriate and consistent to parliamentary tradition.
The committee report also noted that as per the cost assessment that was conducted to restore all the equipment and appliances damaged inside the House, the value of the damage caused, according to the valuation report on restoration of damaged property submitted by the Chief Valuer was Rs. 325,000.
The Committee recommended that it was essential to continue investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and that it should be concluded expeditiously. It also recommended the institution of judicial proceedings upon the advice of the Attorney General in the meantime.
According to UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila, out of the 59 MPs who were found guilty of various offences, 54 MPs belonged to the UPFA, four to the UNP, and one to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
UPFA MP Chandima Weerakkody stressed that the committee report was the “Kakille theenduwa of Jayasuriya”. He alleged that it was a biased report as the names of UNPers had been carefully taken out and UPFA MPs had been targeted.
“I don’t think we should approve the conduct of any members of Parliament in that manner, as the people had not elected them expecting such acts from them. They were elected to express their opinions but not to communicate through other means. The entire country saw the incident. It’s very unfair and I think it’s damaging to the supremacy and prestige of Parliament when partial decisions of this nature are taken by the Speaker,” he added.
SC to punish?
According to Senior Deputy Solicitor General Rohantha Abeysuriya, either Parliament or the Supreme Court could impose punishments with regard to the offences contained in Sections under Part B of the Schedule to the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, and that the maximum punishment the Parliament could impose accordingly was also clearly stated in Section 28 of the Act.
Furthermore, only the Supreme Court could impose penalties with regard to the offences contained in the Sections under Part B of the Schedule to the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, and in doing so, action shall be taken in line with Sections 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26 of the Act.
Abeysuriya also explained to the Committee that after the Speaker had referred this matter to the Attorney General, in terms of Section 26 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, the Attorney General could send a report regarding the same to the Speaker.
Thereafter, if the Attorney General furnishes a report to the Speaker stating that in his opinion, there was sufficient evidence for the Speaker to take further steps regarding this matter in terms of Section 25 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, the Parliament, by resolution, could require that the Attorney General make an application to the Supreme Court to take further action in this regard.
In terms of Section 23 of the Act, the application made by the Attorney General could be considered by the Supreme Court, and punishments could be imposed through an examination carried out following the procedure stipulated in the Act.
As clearly stated in Subsection 2 of Section 31 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, where any act which constitutes an offence under this Act also constitutes an offence under any other law, no section of this Act shall be interpreted as preventing or restricting an action of prosecuting or trying a person who is guilty of such act, according to Abeysuriya.