Appoint Trial-at-Bar to probe SLPP MP’s death – SJB


The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on Friday called on the Government to appoint a special Trial-at-Bar to probe the death of SLPP Parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala, who was killed in Nittambuwa during the May 9 unrest.

Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella said such a Bench will be able to expedite legal action. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa speaking during the Vote of Condolence said that the killing of Athukorala was an act of terrorism, adding that as the Opposition, they vehemently condemn this heinous crime. He said “We see this as a day that created a black mark on this country. It was a day where fights, assaults, arson and violence erupted in this country.”

Joining the Condolence Motion on the death of Polonnaruwa MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said the religious dignitaries who were at the protest ground made no attempt to prevent the mobs from brutally attacking the protesters, including SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala. These religious dignitaries did not even condemn the action of these mobs. He said that such murders have silenced the people who uphold democratic values.

The former Prime Minister said, “The nature of his brutal murder reflects the hatred of the murderers and it was similar to the hatred exerted by the so-called patriots in 88-89. They murdered people and branded the victims as traitors and ordered not to carry their coffins above knee level.”

He said Parliamentarians lived with fear and those who represented Parliament in the 70s, 80s and 90s are well aware of this fact. He added they were afraid of some organisations such as ‘Pra’ and ‘Kalu Balallu’. However, a country free from fear was created by us after 2009 but the situation has changed by now.

When the Condolence Motion on the late SLPP Parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala was taken up in Parliament on Friday, his wife Malani Athukorala, their son Ranindu Athukorala and other relatives were present to witness the debate from the Speaker’s Gallery. However, a clearly emotional Malini Athukorala was seen on several occasions breaking down in tears during the condolence debate of her husband Polonnaruwa District MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala who was killed in Nittambuwa on May 9.

Meanwhile, all SLPP MPs were seen wearing black armbands in protest against the killing of their colleague in Nittambuwa by violent protesters. Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was also seen wearing a black armband which was tied by MP Premitha Bandara Tennakoon.

Former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Thursday said that he would totally withdraw from matters of governance but continue in politics.

At a press conference at the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) headquarters on Thursday, he announced his resignation from the SLPP National List Parliamentary seat which he held for 11 months.

He said, “I resign paving the way for the party to appoint a suitable person. I am no longer required in Parliament. I entered Parliament as I was asked to take up the Finance Ministry post. I feel that I do not belong to that place.”

Responding to a barrage of questions from journalists, Rajapaksa said that he fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability, but could not deliver everything the people expected.

He said, “When I returned to Sri Lanka, I had no plans to enter Parliament or be the Finance Minister. I had two purposes. First, the former Yahapalana Government had filed a number of cases on fraud and corruption charges against me and I wanted to face them. Last week, I was acquitted from the last case against me.

Second, there was criticism that I was responsible for the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I wanted to bring him back to a high position recognised by the people. I achieved both targets.

He also refuted claims that he was responsible for the prevailing economic crisis in the country. Former Minister Rajapaksa said, “The crisis was already there. That is why I was asked to take it up. I wanted to see the people of this country stand on their own feet. I did my best. Plans could go right or wrong. If this country is benefited by anything today, that was a result of what I did as the Finance Minister.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to finish the remaining two years in his term despite months-long street protests calling for his ouster, but won’t stand for re-election as he focuses on fixing the financial mess that tipped Sri Lanka into its worst-ever economic crisis. “I can’t go as a failed president,” Rajapaksa said Monday, June 6 in a wide-ranging interview at his official residence in Colombo, his first with a foreign media organisation since the crisis unfolded.

The President said, “I have been given a mandate for five years. I will not contest again.” The President said he wanted to replicate his previous successful stints serving the nation. The President reiterated his controversial goal to push through ‘natural agriculture’, a short-lived move to ban chemical fertiliser that caused crop output to slump.

President Rajapaksa said, “It is political as a President. You know, I am not a politician. Fortunately, or unfortunately people when they are in politics for so long you can have so much baggage, you have a lot of friends. A lot of people who want help are your supporters. When you go against this — I tried to go against this — you don’t get their help.”

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella accused the Speaker of engaging in politics and acting partially in favour of the Government and handing over the public finance committee Chairmanship to a Government lawmaker. Kiriella told the Speaker “You are occupying the seat of the Speaker and engaging in politics. You are the one who created all the problems in this country.”

He said that Standing Order 121/1 clearly states that the Chairman of the Public Finance Committee should be a Member of the Opposition, but the Speaker suspended the Standing Orders and transferred the post to the Government. “Therefore, now rectify this as you have committed a grave wrong,” Kiriella said.

However, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena categorically refuted the allegations and said, “This is not something that I did. It is a decision taken by you in the House. Do not blame me for that.” The Speaker said that he was not in a position to know when Members were more or less in Parliament and urged Kiriella not to make such allegations against him. However, Kiriella continued to accuse the Speaker of engaging in politics and being partial towards the Government.