SLPP defends PTA, calls for probe into ‘terror’ angle

“Who takes responsibility for the destruction of over 70 MPs’ houses, 600 other properties?”

By Shamindra Ferdinando

General Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, yesterday (23) said that there should be no holds barred investigation into violence in the run-up to the May 09 incidents, at Galle Face, and outside Temple Trees, and after the resignation of the then Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

SLPP National List MP and Attorney-at-Law Kariyawasam strongly defended the utilization of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to deal with some of those who had been arrested, in connection with incidents, related to the so-called public protest movement.

Kariyawasam said so in response to Opposition political parties, a section of the diplomatic community, as well as some local and foreign NGOs, condemning the issuance of detention orders in terms of the PTA.

Referring to detention orders issued in respect of three persons, including Wasantha Mudalige, convenor, Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF), affiliated to the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), lawmaker Kariyasawam said that interested parties had quite conveniently forgotten the destruction of houses, and other properties, belonging to one-third of lawmakers, killing of Polonnaruwa district SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale, and causing grievous injuries to Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama.

How could a public protest campaign, dubbed as peaceful, destroy houses and other properties belonging to as many as 72 MPs, within a matter of 24 hours, lawmaker Kariyawasam asked. Almost all of them were members, elected on the SLPP ticket, MP Kariyawasam said. The SLPP parliamentary group consists of 145 members.

The SLPP official pointed out that a month later the protest movement destroyed the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence,at 5th Lane, Kollupitiya.

When The Island pointed out that violence erupted at an unprecedented scale, only after the then government unleashed UPFA goons against those protesting at Galle Face and outside Temple Trees, lawmaker Kariyawasam said that peaceful public protest campaign couldn’t have stormed so many guarded houses, meticulously, across the country.

In fact, organized groups attacked residences of five SLPP lawmakers, less than a week before the May 09 eruption, MP Kariyawasam said. Among those who had been attacked were Gamini Lokuge (Colombo district), Ramesh Pathirana (Galle district) and Roshan Ranasinghe (Polonnaruwa district), lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Responding to another query, MP Kariyawasam asserted that police, in consultation with Foreign and Defence Ministries, should brief the diplomatic community of the actual situation. They should be provided with video footage of the destruction caused by organized gangs, MP Kariyawasam said, adding that as many as 600 other properties, belonging to ex-Provincial Council and Local Government members, were attacked.

The MP said that those who had been so concerned about the arrests and detention of suspects, including in terms of the PTA, never bothered to condemn the lynching of Amarakeerthi Atukorale, in the Nittambuwa police area. The first time entrant to Parliament was lynched, along with his police bodyguard, on the evening of May 09, at Nittambuwa, MP Kariyawasam said. MP Welgama was almost killed at Makumbura, Kottawa, the top SLPP official said, alleging that the whole operation must have been planned over several weeks, if not months, in advance.

Lawmaker Kariyawasam stressed that groups of motorcyclists, wearing full face helmets, led the attacks. Having failed to protect the residence of MPs and Local Government representatives, the police shouldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for apprehending those responsible for violence.

The MP said that violent elements obviously exploited the extreme economic difficulties, experienced by the public ,to stage violence.

The SLPP General Secretary said that law enforcement authorities, and intelligence services, should conduct a thorough inquiry. The then Minister Dinesh Gunawardena alleged, in Parliament, the deployment of drones to monitor targeted properties, including his own, whereas former MP M.M. Zuhair, too, made reference to the use of such technology in the well calculated operation, the MP said.

Lawmaker Gunawardena said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared Emergency in line with the overall strategy to meet the threat. The MP said that he couldn’t comprehend why some of those, whose properties were senselessly destroyed, voted against the Emergency, thereby played into the hands of those seeking to subvert the country.

Lawmaker Kariyawasam said that the role, played by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in the public protest movement, was questionable. The politician said that he raised the issue, as a member of Parliament, and an attorney-at-law. Instead of taking, what he called, a balanced view, the BASL has thrown its weight behind the violent protest campaign, with some members acting in a manner completely contrary to the oaths taken by them, lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring that the SLPP elected UNP leader Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, as there was no alternative, lawmaker Kariyawasam alleged the country was about to succumb to terrorism when the ruling party stepped in. Unfortunately, some of those elected, and appointed on the SLPP ticket, and National List, respectively, conspired against their own government.

Lawmaker said that those who asked the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to quit, behaved in a treacherous manner and were still pursuing the same strategy. The SLPP official emphasized that the so-called rebel group shouldn’t expect the ruling party to nominate any of them for positions in Parliament as in terms of the Standing Orders. “Positions will be shared by the government and the Opposition. There is absolutely no space for those who operate as independent MPs,” the SLPP General Secretary said, urging all political parties, represented in Parliament, not to condone violence, at any level.

The lawmaker pointed out that even the rebel group was sharply divided over the contentious matter of President Wickremesinghe declaring Emergency.

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