Basil sworn in, UNP stages protest, sittings suspended
by Wijitha Nakkawita and Lakshmi de Silva

Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa was sworn in as an MPin Parliament yesterday.

All the ruling party members congratulated him and sat with the backbenchers.

However, the UNP responded to his swearing in with a protest. Some UNP MPs carried placards.

Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara suspended sittings of Parliament for 10 minutes to bring the situation under control.

Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said that such an ugly incident had never occurred in the history of the Sri Lanka Parliament when a new member was sworn in.

The Speaker: Please be silent!

Jeyaraj: Our silence will amount to condoning what they are doing. (He continued speaking amidst interruption from the Opposition).

Government members Mervin Silva, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and others crossed the well of the House, snatched the posters and tore them.

When the sittings resumed after 10 minutes, Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara said the incidents had taken place at a very solemn occasion of a memberís swearing in were regrettable. All members were aware that a new memberís swearing in was an important event and he expected the occasion to be conducted solemnly. He said he had not expected the House to go down to such a low level. It had become so bad that a member had had the temerity to snatch the order paper from his hands.

Chief Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle: You did not take action against the member at that time. And you did not stop the members from ridiculing a solemn occasion. You remained silent. In what Parliament will a Speaker remain silent over such incidents. What action have you taken against member Mahinda Ratnatilake, who snatched the order paper from you on the day the Finance Bills were presented? (More shouting from both sides)

Speaker: Honourable Mervin Silva please be silent. Otherwise I will have to name you.

Jeyaraj: How can you name him when you did not take action against Mahinda Ratnatilake, who came up to your table and snatched the order paper from your hand.

Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera said the UNP members had held papers as they wanted them to be photographed.


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