The constitutional storm that loomed on the horizon last week between the Courts and Parliament did not make expected landfall when a two judge Appeal Court bench pre-empted its outbreak on Monday and allowed the Ratnapura MP-elect on death row, SLPP’s Premalal Jayasekera, to attend Parliament and take his oaths as an honourable member of [...]


Black sataka protest marks death row MP’s House debut

Jayasekera becomes first convicted murderer to take oaths as member of Lanka’s Parliament

The constitutional storm that loomed on the horizon last week between the Courts and Parliament did not make expected landfall when a two judge Appeal Court bench pre-empted its outbreak on Monday and allowed the Ratnapura MP-elect on death row, SLPP’s Premalal Jayasekera, to attend Parliament and take his oaths as an honourable member of the House.

Last week, the Parliamentary Speaker had ordered the Commissioner General of Prisons to produce Jayasekera from his death row cell to Parliament on September 8.  The Attorney General had objected to Jayasekera’s presence in parliament, stating that there was a constitutional bar to his attendance since Articles 89 and 91 explicitly disqualified a person who was under a death sentence, as Jayasekera was, from sitting and voting in Parliament.

Jayasekera, who was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death by the Ratnapura High Court on July 31, just six days before the general election, for the shooting of UNP supporter Shantha Dodanpola while decorating a UNP stage for the then joint opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, to address an election rally on January 5, 2015 in Kahawatte, Ratnapura, had, nevertheless, been elected to Parliament in the August 5th general election.              Last week, Jayasekera filed a writ application in the Appeal Court, seeking the court’s permission to sit in Parliament. The court ruled in his favour.

PARLIAMENTARY RECORD: Lanka’s first death row convict, SLPP’s Premalal Jayasekera takes his oaths as a member of Parliament before the Hon. Speaker on Tuesday

Had the two-judge Appeal Court bench stood fast by the Attorney General’s stand that an appeal against the Ratnapura High Court’s guilty verdict, only held the death sentence in suspense and not the conviction which could only be quashed by the Appeal Court’s final determination, it may have possibly led to a standoff had the Speaker disagreed and insisted on Jayasekera’s presence in the House. With the Appeal Court granting Jayasekera’s request, the issue did not arise and a crisis was averted.

The court may have given him a favourable flag off to rush to Parliament’s winning enclosure the following day but it was to a hostile reception hosted by the main opposition party, the SJB, he walked into when he entered Parliament’s portals to set an unprecedented record as being Lanka’s first convicted murderer sentenced to the gallows to take oaths as a member of Parliament.

No matter how bizarre it may seem, no matter how dubious the historic incident may be, Sri Lanka earned another gold by being, perhaps, the first country in the civilised world to boast a convicted murderer in its supreme legislature and even as the opposition, lassoed in black satakayas, mourned the dismal turn of events, ruling party MPs cheered in celebration, the arrival of their prodigal son from death row to assume his high seat in Parliament.

The opposition SJB spared no pains to demonstrate its vile abhorrence to breathe the same august Parliamentary air with one who had just come from Welikada’s death row branded with the mark of Cain; and showed its displeasure in stinging tones of protest. As Jayasekera was escorted by the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Speaker’s chair to be sworn in, his every step was met with a parade of boos by the SJB with its members Harin Fernando, Nalin Bandara and Lakshman Kiriella shouting it was illegal to swear the convict as an MP.

Addressing the floor of the House after Jayasekera’s initiation rites had been concluded, Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella referred to the double standards adopted by members of the ruling party.

He said: “In 2010, when Sarath Fonseka was elected to this House but could not come to take oath as he was in the prison. We raised the issue and asked the Chair to permit him to take his oath. But Prof G.L. Peiris raised objections, citing the provisions of Article 89 of the Constitution and said the MP-elect could not take oaths if he or she had been convicted by a court. In addition Prof Peiris told the House that a person sentenced to death could not become an MP.’

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said in Parliament on Thursday that by allowing Jayasekera to take oaths the Speaker had set a wrong precedent. He said: “In 1982, Selvarajah Yogachandran, also known as Kuttimani, one of the leaders of the TELO, was nominated to Parliament. His name was gazetted to become an MP. However, the then Speaker Bakeer Markar citing the Sections 89 and 91 of the Constitution did not permit Yogachandran to take oaths as an MP because the latter had been sentenced to death. Yogachandran too had appealed against the sentence. That is the precedent in Parliament.”

The Speaker, however, dismissed the objections, stating that it should have been raised in the Court of Appeal before it decided to allow Jayasekera to take oaths.

Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the row, Jayasekera, claimed this week he had been framed by the Yahapalana Government and said he was innocent. He told Parliament the Yahapalana Government, the then justice minister and the CID were behind the moves to put him behind bars. Jayasekera, who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by the Ratnapura High Court on July 31 six weeks ago, claimed: “I was convicted on false charges levelled against me by the Yahapalana Government to take political revenge from me.”

The Court of Appeal’s interim order will be taken up by the court for a full hearing on September 29. Upon the court’s final determination, subject to a further appeal to the Supreme Court, will rest whether Jayasekera’s flight from death row to Parliamentary heights, from prison grub to parliament’s five-star luncheons, was a one off jaunt or a regular outing for the next five years; and whether the legal floodgates will be opened to make convicted murderers, rapists, robbers, pedophiles permanent parliamentary fixtures in the future.

Meet the nation’s ‘Yes’ men, for all reasons, for all governments

They are the nation’s Yes men, people any government can count on to raise their hands saying’ aye’ to any amendment any government intends to bring to brighten the constitution in its own hue, to its own taste.

In fact, this over 20 strong tribe of ‘dependables’ have raised their hand to every constitutional amendment that has been brought before Parliament this century and are widely expected to repeat the exercise in the forthcoming 20 Amendment too. If there is any tinkering to be done with the Constitution, these are the trusted, tested, reliable pit stop supporters, no government can do without.

All these MPs, who have sailed through the ups and downs of parliamentary life these last twenty years without hassle and survived every change of regime and political intrigue without scrape, voted for Chandrika’s 17th amendment which sought to give a more liberal glossy touch to the Constitution in 2001. This was the first time any government ever dared to mess with the executive powers of the president and sought to trammel it. These brave knights were there in that shining hour to tilt the windmill.

They were the first explorers to storm the epicentre of the constitutional universe.

They were there again in 2010 to lend a helping hand in restoration and improvement work to the presidential office, the 17A had dented. The same bunch unblushingly raised their hands in ‘ayes’ to  Mahinda’s draconian 18th Amendment in 2010 which repealed 17A in toto and increased the ambit of executive presidential power more than JR’s much maligned 1978 Constitution had ever contemplated. The 18th Amendment was also diametrically opposite to 17A to which they had given the thumbs up in 2001. But no matter. Their habit was to do or die; and to the new vista, voted the ever willing Y team.

Then five years later when the Maithri-Ranil combo swept in to power and toppled Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 18th Amendment fortified executive presidency, they voted for the Yahapalana drafted 19th Amendment which repealed 18A and drew back the presidential frontiers 18A had so brazenly advanced. Now, five years later, they are expected to do another habitual U turn and vote in favour of the 20th Amendment which is set to roll back time and return to the 18A.

With the general election having cost an estimated Rs. 10 billion according to Election Chief Deshapriya, the cost of each MP in Parliament has been placed at Rs. 45 million. That’s peanuts. The value of this special breed of MPs who have been blessed with the god given foresight to whiff the changing winds and realise what the government of the hour solely needs politically, is priceless; and not all the gold in the government coffers can outweigh their combined value in weight.

They are the indispensables. Without them, without their ever ready willing yes, no government in the new millennium would have been able to implement their constitutional agenda. Hail! To the Yes Brigade! Glory be to them as it was in the yesteryear, is now, and soon ever shall be in this maze without end.


Every dog must have his dayIn the days when cart bulls were used, it was the practice of some owners to extract the maximum work out of the animal and then, when hard toil had exacted its toll and hastened the end of its working days, to cart it off to the nearest abattoir and sell the work worn bull for whatever value its beef and carcass could fetch once the butcher’s knife had fallen on its neck.

A similar policy, at least, in principle seems to have been practised by the Police with regard to the police dogs that aid crime detection, including drug and bomb detection. Once their working life is over and they are past their prime, the principal of ingratitude is allowed to dictate their future fate,

Instead of affording them a dignified retirement with all gratitude for the service rendered, the auctioneer’s gavel is let to fall on their heads and condemn them to an old age of hell. They are sold to the highest bidder without any qualms troubling the police chiefs as to what their wretched fate might be in alien hands and unknown homes.

GOING, GOING, GONE: After a life time of service, sold to the highest bidder. But now the scandalous police dog auction sale, has a happy ending thanks to Defence Secretary’s order to acting IGP

Last month the Police Kennels division auctioned 25 police sniffer dogs which were 10 years old and had reached pensionable age. These were highly trained, one master dogs who need careful handling. But the police were happy selling them off to the highest bidder without a thorough background check on the buyers’ suitability to be entrusted with these dogs. Instead, the police were busy, gloating it had earned Rs. 310,000 through the auction, each dog fetching an average value of Rs. 12,400 which seems to be the present going rate of ingratitude.

Horrified animal rights activists protested against these dog auctions held in Kandy on August 15 and began an online petition which was signed by thousands. They pointed that these were police dogs which had given a lifetime of service in helping police to track down drug dealers, robbers, murderers, missing persons and children. It would be crass ingratitude to cast their lot aside, once they reached retirement age.

Luckily, help was at hand to save the canines.

Defence Secretary Major General (Rtd) Kamal Gunaratne this week directed the Police Chief not to auction police sniffer dogs when the time arrived for them to be retired. A military spokesman said that ‘he had informed the acting IGP to keep them and treat them under the care of the Police Department until their death.” Bravo. Well done.

Finally, man’s best friend’s well known gratitude towards its master has been recognised and reciprocated in kind. Every dog, they say, has its day. Now, thanks to the Defence Secretary’s praiseworthy order, police sniffer dogs can work assured that come retirement, they will have theirs.


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