revolt: UNF MP in anti-Tiger tirade
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent
It's surprising how openly
Members of Parliament express their views when their party leaders
tell them they can speak according to their conscience without toeing
a party line on a given subject. The rare opportunity to cut across
party lines came their way on Thursday when the adjourned debate
on the re-imposition of the death penalty took place in Parliament.
It almost sounded
as if some of the legislators had broken free from the shackles
that had forced them to speak in favour of something they objected
to or vice versa. Some of the outspoken MPs of the past who many
thought had succumbed to party pressures managed to bring back some
of the lost vigour back into the debate.
This was particularly
true of Minister Hemakumara Nanayakkara who used the chance to let
off a lot of steam and took the debate further than expected by
launching a scathing attack on the LTTE and questioned how the government
could keep silent in the face of blatant acts of thuggery being
committed by the members of the group.
pistol gangs are killing intelligence officers. Then they threaten
Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero who went to Ampara to copy some stone
inscriptions. How are we going to keep quiet in the face of all
this," he asked.
remarks received applause from the opposition benches, one of his
colleagues on the other side of the House seemed concerned about
his future in the government. "Can you remain in the UNF after
speaking this way here today," asked Gampaha district PA parliamentarian
replied Mr. Nanayakkara defiantly. "Our lips have not been
sealed by locks, but even if there were such locks, we would break
them open and speak out," he said.
Mr. Nanayakkara also spoke strongly in favour of imposing the death
penalty, saying there were many people to speak on behalf of perpetrators
of crimes but none on behalf of the victims. "Ther crime rate
is soaring. It is the responsibility of the government to tackle
this issue. The death penalty would deter these criminals,"
Minister Rajitha Senaratne did not agree. He said hanging a person
was the easy thing to do but the real challenge was to rehabilitate
criminals and try and absorb them back into the mainstream.
many crimes are committed and army deserters are behind most of
them. If we are to hang all of them, we will be hanging the youth
of this country. What we have to do is address the economic and
political issues that lead them to commit these crimes."
Of course there
were MPs who didn't think that it was only the youth who would qualify
for the gallows. PA Anuradhapura district MP Tissa Karalliyadde
said there may be MPs themselves who are involved in crime and may
have to face the hangman.
MP, Gampaha district parliamentarian Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said
the streets were so unsafe that it was impossible for a girl to
walk alone on the roads without fear of being raped or abducted.
"If the death penalty was in place, the crime rate would be
much less. Are we to look at the rights of the murderers or the
victims?" he asked.
He said the
best solution would be to hold a referendum and let the people decide
whether the death penalty should be imposed or not. Education Minister
Karunasena Kodituwakku held a similar view. He said what was needed
was maximum punishment that could be handed down by the courts to
be implemented. "The death penalty is in the statute books
for the most serious crimes. It should be implemented where necessary,"
Affairs Minister A.H.M. Azwer who spoke in favour of the death penalty
cited Islamic law which says capital punishment is needed to punish
wrong doers in order to cleanse the society.
Wijesinghe, Galle district JVP MP said it wasn't the lack of laws
that was causing the increasing rate of lawlessness in the country
but the failure to strictly implement them.
He cited a
case that came up before the Udugama courts where a school principal
was accused of sexually abusing four ten year old girls and all
except one lawyer had refused to appear on behalf of the victims
as the accused's brother was a lawyer.
"Where is the justice in this? It is the victims who are finally
victimized," he said.
The debate was adjourned for another day.
an adjournment debate on the recovery of loans given by state banks
was debated in parliament. The motion was moved by Kandy district
PA MP Thilina Bandara Tennekoon who urged the government to take
whatever steps necessary to stop those who have taken loans running
into millions of rupees from state banks and have defaulted.