PM: MPs have privileges, but judicial matters prerogative of the courts

Bandula raises breach of privilege over court summons


by Saman Indrajith

UPFA MP Bandula Gunawardena told parliament yesterday that he had been summoned by Colombo Magistrate Court to be present in the court on May 08 for contempt of court and causing traffic congestion.

The alleged charge was levelled for his presence at the bribery commission when former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa went there to give statement and leaving the commission premises in the same vehicle with Rajapaksa, the MP said.

 Raising a privilege issue and bringing it to the notice of Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody, the MP said: I have been a member of this august assembly since 1989. On April 20, I went to the bribery commission to give a statement with regard to a complaint being investigated by the commission. There were people gathered around the bribery

commission and near the road. Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, too, was present. When he came out of the commission after giving a statement, I got into his vehicle to come out of the commission premises. So, I have been issued summons with charges of contempt of court, blocking the road and defying court orders.

Leader of the House Plantations Minister Lakshman Kiriella: This a matter before courts, not a privilege issue.

Deputy Speaker Weerakkody: The Speaker has given permission to present that privilege issue.

Chief Opposition Whip WDJ Seneviratne: This is an issue of harassing MPs by the police.

Leader of the House Kiriella: All MPs are below the supremacy of law.

MP Gunawardena: This is a fabricated charge. The objective is to suppress the voices of MPs standing against the government. There has been a breach of privileges.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe: MPs have privileges. But, judicial matters are the prerogative of courts. Gunawardena said that he had visited the bribery commission to give a statement. But, there was a court order forbidding public gathering opposite the bribery commission on that particular day. So, it was unlawful assembly. MP Gunawardena with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had gone where the people had gathered. Police had collected the names of those who were there in defiance of the court order. Had MP Gunawardena gone there to make a statement, he should have left that place after doing so. Why did he get into somebody else’s vehicle? We should point out to the world that this House is not one protecting thieves.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena: MPs are empowered by the Constitution to visit any place in the country and to intervene in public affairs. If an MP cannot visit a public gathering it is a serious problem. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, when he was in the opposition, stood for MPs’ rights. This is a matter concerning all MPs. 

Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva: This is a privilege issue. We should not let the right of MPs to visit public gatherings be stripped. We are not asking the government not to implement laws against MPs if they cause disturbances and damage public property. Thus, the government should devise a mechanism to handle such situations. It should be flexible.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: MP Gunawardena should go before the courts and tell his story there.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...