The law or Privileges? | Daily News

The law or Privileges?

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa along with UPFA MPs has called on Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to stop police investigations into the unruly incidents in Parliament last November on the basis that they (MPs) were protected by Parliamentary privileges. However Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella insisted that the law of the land superseded Parliamentary privileges and was against the idea of halting police investigations.

The Speaker on Friday tabled the report of the Special Parliamentary Committee that investigated the incidents and the report was forwarded to the Parliamentary Ethics and Privileges Committee. The Speaker said that the report would be discussed at a Party Leaders’ meeting. However, he said that the investigations dealt with attacks on MPs and that he could not interfere with the police investigations. Even the PM has agreed, when pointed out to him, that police investigations should not be interfered with. “There is separate police investigation. That happened because two of your MPs complained against me to the Police who recorded a statement from me”, the Speaker said.

Meanwhile speaking at a UNP balamandayaya meeting at Horowpothana on Sunday, Kiriella said that the matter is been investigated by the CID and they would have to wait and see the outcome. He said that there is no question about applying the law against MPs who damaged Parliament property. “The law of the country takes precedence over Parliamentary privileges. MPs have no separate laws governing them. This is something that has only been imagined by them (MPs). We are all subjected to the law “the minister said asking what the position would have been had murder been committed during the incidents.” According to MP Bandula Gunawardena there had never been an instance where the police was brought into the picture to investigate incidents in Parliament.

True, the Police had never come into to the scene except when the Chair called in the Police to evict a ‘disruptor’ MP. However the incidents that took place during that black November were no ordinary incidents. For the first time anywhere in Parliaments there was the very real threat of murder being committed, which was also given as a reason by the President for his decision to prorogue Parliament. Also for the first time a Speaker came into the Chamber under full police protection demonstrating the gravity of the situation. Not only that, the self-same police personnel were attacked with chairs, water bottles, heavy volumes and other missiles and had water mixed with chili powder thrown at them.

In the normal course of things, all those who attacked law enforcement officers would have been arrested promptly and thrown behind bars. There are instances where mob leaders who attacked the police being made to ‘disappear’ after being taken into police custody whereas here we have a situation where MPs who attacked the Police, leave alone being arrested, want the investigations against them halted, citing Parliament Privileges.

MPs also want them spared for destroying Parliament property whereas there are umpteen cases heard in the courts today where public officials are arraigned and prosecuted for violations of the Public Property Act. It seems ironic, indeed, for Mahinda Rajapaksa to espouse the cause of his MPs in this regard, while his own brother was grilled by the police for alleged violation of the Public Property Act.

This however is not surprising given MR’s indulgence of his Ministers and MPs when he was President, as regards breaches of the law. Why, a notorious drug baron from Colombo was not only allowed to contest the General Elections but was appointed the Monitoring MP to oversee the Ministry of Defence, no less, while Rajapaksa personally intervened to secure the release of another drug kingpin cum MP from the Gampaha District after an STF raid on his home yielded a large haul of narcotics. Needless to say, the STF officers who conducted the raid duly received transfer orders. So much was MR’s contempt of the law. The Parliament brawl is yet another instance of Rajapaksa going out of his way to protect his MPs who are in breach of the law.

Therefore, on no account should the November incidents be allowed to be swept under the carpet. We say this because if Parliamentary Privileges are invoked at every turn there will be nothing to prevent even murder been committed within the hallowed Chambers one of these days and the MPs enjoying immunity from the law. This is a very real possibility, what with members seen brandishing knives in the well of the House. Not only that there will also be a general disregard of the law by even ordinary members of the public when their own representatives in Parliament are treated with kid gloves for violating the law.

Worse, with the progeny and the kith and kin or the current lot of Ministers and MPs biding their time to get into Parliament, things can only get worse if some of the doings of these second tier politicians is anything to go by. Hence, nothing short of throwing some of these miscreants in the slammer would help cleanse the whole sordid mess.


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