Fisticuffs in parliamentDecember 19, 2011, 9:51 pm
By Saman Indrajith
A verbal battle between UNP MP Range Bandara and UPFA MP Arundika Fernando inside the Chamber of Parliament ended in fisticuffs outside the Chamber yesterday.
Range Bandara spoke for nearly one hour during the third reading stage of the budget under the votes of the Ministry of Defence and criticised the armed forces, the police, the Defence Secretary and demanded justice for former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in jail.
MP Bandara had been allocated only 45 minutes but as went of criticising the government, the other Opposition MPs gave him some more time from their allocations.
The government members continued to disturb the UNP MP who replied all of them in turn with references to their personal lives and highlighting scandals they were accused of.
As Ranga Bandara left the Chamber, ending his speech, MP Fernando was seen rushing to the door after him. They were followed by both government and opposition MPs to the Opposition side lobby in the second floor of the Parliamentary complex. Through the open doors those in the press gallery could see MP Fernando hitting MP Range Bandara who retaliated by kicking his opponent.
Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga was seen trying to drag Range Bandara away.
MPs of both sides were seen trying to separate the two Puttalam District MPs.
Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando was seen taking Arundika Fernando back to the Chamber.
The Chief Opposition Whip condemned the assault on Range Bandara. "It is a very bad sign when opposition MPs are being beaten inside Parliament. The debate belongs to the Opposition. It is we who decide the time allocation," he said.
Several opposition MPs who spoke during the debate, after the incident, condemned the conduct of the government.
DNA MP Vjitha Herath, during his speech said the matters related to the Defence Ministry did not seem healthy for the opposition MPs. When the Defence Minister arrived in Parliament to present the budget in his capacity as Finance Minister the government MPs roughed up Opposition MPs. When the Defence Secretary was present in the Chamber box for officials too, the Opposition MPs were assaulted, he said.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was present at the officials’ box.
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