Colombo | Rival Sri Lankan lawmakers threw chilli powder and furniture at each other and disrupted the proceedings of Parliament for a second day Friday, forcing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon police inside the House and adjourn the session until Monday.
The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against disputed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Friday’s proceedings were to repeat the floor test which was disrupted on Thursday.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who installed Rajapaksa as prime minister last month in a controversial move, had agreed for a floor test with the leaders of ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition during crisis talks last night.
The MPs supporting Rajapaksa took over the seat of the Speaker, delaying the proceedings, officials said. They shouted slogans against Jayasuriya broke furniture. Some Rajapakse loyalists were also seen throwing chilli powder at rival legislators and police, Colombo Gazette reported.
The Speaker summoned police inside Parliament chamber after 45 minutes of disruption. One of the rioting MPs Arundika Fernando occupied the seat of the Speaker with more MPs surrounding it. Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a senior parliamentarian, was injured in the melee.
The rioting United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members demanded the arrest of two legislators of the Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). They charged that two UNP legislators, Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives during the brawl which took place yesterday. Yesterday, UPFA MP Dilum Amunugama was injured in clashes inside the chamber.
Police Friday protected Jayasuriya from the rioting MPs as he called the Tamil National Alliance lawmaker MA Sumanthiran to propose the suspension of the standing orders. Jayasuriya on the basis of a voice vote announced that the motion against Rajapaksa was defeated as physical voting could not take place due to the brawl. The rioting MPs threw books at the police. Jayasuriya immediately suspended the sittings until November 19 and left the House surrounded by police.
President Sirisena said that he would not ‘prorogue the Parliament under any circumstances.’ “I urge all Parliamentarians to uphold principles of democracy parliamentary traditions at all times. I will not prorogue Parliament under any circumstances,” the president tweeted. The trouble erupted in Parliament on Thursday when the Speaker agreed to a request from ousted premier Wickremesinghe’s UNP that a vote be taken on a statement made by Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.
Jayasuriya allowed Rajapaksa to make a statement as a lawmaker after stating that he does not recognise the claim of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who lost a no-confidence motion on Wednesday. Rajapaksa’s side has disputed the no-trust motion, saying proper procedure was not followed and accused Jayasuriya of bias towards his own party.
Parliament on Wednesday passed the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa after the Supreme Court overturned the presidential decree to dissolve the House and hold snap polls on January 5. Amid raucous scenes, Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when Sirisena sacked premier Wickremesinghe, installed Rajapaksa in his place and suspended the House, plunging the island nation into an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.
The vote of no confidence against Rajapaksa has further complicated the political crisis. It is not yet clear whether Rajapaksa will resign or whether the ousted Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 122 lawmakers in the 225-member House, will return to power.