Ask LTTE also to stop terrorism, Hemakumara tells TNA
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent
Amid heightened security and war clouds looming large, Parliament met on Tuesday to extend the state of emergency by another month.
Though once again the Tamil National Alliance MPs took centre stage by their noisy walkout, this did little or nothing to hinder the emergency debate which continued through the rest of the day. With black bands wrapped round their necks and carrying a big white banner calling for an end to "state terrorism against Tamils", the TNA MPs walked down the Well of the House and left the Chamber through the Opposition exit.

While on their way out, the MPs were accosted by UNP MP Hemakumara Nanayakkara who told them that while calling for an end to state terrorism the TNA MPs should also call for an end to LTTE terrorism.

This bit of advice ensued in a heated exchange of words between Mr. Nanayakkara and several TNA MPs but sadly though, there were no other UNP MPs or for that matter any other opposition member to speak in support of Mr. Nanayakkara who had to shout himself hoarse to be heard over the din created by the group of angry TNA MPs.

It was the timely intervention of the Sergeant-at-Arms Anil Samarasekera, which finally led to the TNA MPs leaving the Chamber and thus prevented an ugly situation turning uglier.

Mr. Nanayakkara said it was a shame that people who came to parliament on the votes of the Tamil community had forgotten about them and were now carrying out an agenda thrust upon them by the LTTE.

Before the walkout, TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah made a statement on behalf of his party and blamed the government for the escalation of violence

"The attack on the Army Headquarters is a direct consequence of the state terror that has been unleashed on Tamil civilians in the north and east," Mr. Senathirajah charged adding that in recent weeks more than 40,000 civilians had left the government-controlled areas and fled to un-cleared areas.

He warned that a complete breakdown of the ceasefire agreement was now inevitable unless the government acted more responsibly. With the TNA MPs out of the Chamber, this was the first occasion in nearly two months that the emergency debate was continued without any disturbance.

Kandy district UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella said the government must fulfill the pledges it made at the Geneva talks and act responsibly. "The LTTE is a terrorist organization so it has no responsibility but the government cannot act in a similar manner," he said.

Mr. Kiriella’s words were not taken lying down by the JVP parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa who said the UNP MP was stating exactly what the TNA MPs said about the government’s failure to act on the Geneva talks.

"The LTTE launched unprovoked attacks on the security forces. Why isn’t he questioning that," Mr. Weerawansa queried? He said the LTTE was now attempting to take Sri Lanka towards a Sudan-type solution – under which the country would be divided into two with UN intervention.

He made specific reference to comments attributed to Japan’s special envoy Yasushi Akashi who had reportedly said that a UN peace keeping mission would be required for the country if the violence continued.

Mr.Weerawansa said it was time for the people to decide whether they were on the side of terrorism or on the side which opposed terrorism and said the LTTE had to be defeated in the only manner they wanted. Leader of the House and senior Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said there were plenty of reasons for the government to continue with the emergency regulations even though it preferred to administer the country without such laws.

"There have been many instances of the LTTE launching unprovoked attacks on government troops, the most serious being the attack on the Army Commander.

Hence the emergency is needed to deal with such situations," he said.
But Mr. de Silva did not close the door for talks with the LTTE and said the government was always willing to resume talks with the Tigers.

"We have accommodated every demand made by the LTTE. Don’t take it as a sign of weakness. It was all done to show our commitment to peace," he added, While Mr. Nanayakkara pledged the UNP’s full support to the government to crack down on terrorism, not all UNP MPs’ voiced the same sentiment.

Strangely the Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera used his entire speech to talk of corruption in the police, the Constitutional Council and economic woes of the country while not bothering too much to talk on the escalation of violence in the country.

He also announced his party would abstain from voting on the emergency regulations and despite the UNP MPs abstaining the emergency regulations were approved un-opposed.

The UNP had another pressing problem with regard to the seating arrangement for its members in the Legislature. After the JVP left the UPFA government and moved to the opposition benches, several UNP MPs were forced to sit on the government side due to insufficient seats on the opposition section of the House to accommodate so many of MPs.

The problem of the seating arrangements was discussed at length while some of the UNP MPs blamed the Speaker for not using the powers vested in him to allocate seats for MPs.

The UNP said the JVP was playing a double game by supporting the government while continuing to sit in opposition. However the JVP insists that since the signing of the P-TOMS agreement last year, the JVP had formally left the UPFA government and had written to the Parliament Secretary General stating they are an independent opposition group.

Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara said he has told the Chief Opposition Whip to talk to other opposition MPs and come to some agreement on the seating arrangements.

A proposal to allocate seats in the opposition benches according to seniority has also failed as not a single TNA MP wants to sit on the Government side and hence the stalemate continues.

On Thursday parliamentarians paid a tribute to Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar during the vote of condolence on his demise. Mr. Kadirgarmar came in for praise from all speakers, particularly for his tireless efforts that led to Vesak being declared an international holiday.

Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said Mr.Kadirgamar was loved by people of all communities and worked to bring peace to the country.
“He scarified all his monetary gains for the sake of the country and despite security concerns, he fulfilled all his obligations as the Foreign Minister,” Mr.Yapa said.

JVP MP Sunil Hadunnetti said the JVP and Mr.Kadirgamar had developed a close bond and understanding even though they did not agree on each and every matter.

He said the late minister admired the dedication and discipline of the party.
“He was a progressive politician and the void left by his death cannot be easily filled,” the Minister added. JHU MP Ellawala Medananda Thero said the late minister had helped portray Sri Lanka in a positive light in the international community and destroy the facade the LTTE was carrying out calling itself the sole representatives of the Tamil people.

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