Lanka MPs exchange blows in Parliament… surround Speaker and try to assault him
Colombo: Sri Lankan lawmakers on Thursday exchanged blows and threw objects at each other, leaving at least one of them bleeding, as MPs loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena surrounded the Speaker in his chair after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who lost a floor test, demanded fresh elections to resolve the raging political turmoil. Trouble erupted when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya agreed to a request from ousted premier Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) that a vote be taken on a statement made by Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.
Jayasuriya had allowed Rajapaksa to make a statement as a member of Parliament 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. "I was the president and premier, so this prime minister's post is not important," Rajapaksa said.
"I urge all 225 members to join me in calling for a fresh election. We want a general election," he said, adding that a fresh election is the best way to resolve the crisis. UNP legislator Lakshman Kiriella urged Jayasuriya to take a vote by name, showing the loss of confidence over Rajapaksa's remarks.
Jayasuriya asked the House if it agreed and with resounding voices of 'Aye' he proceeded to take the vote. He was immediately surrounded by MPs — loyal to Sirisena and Rajapaksa — who were protesting against Jayasuriya's decision to take the vote. "I am the Speaker and I decide," Jayasuriya told the angry lawmakers as UNP MPs formed a ring around the Speaker's chair to shield Jayasuriya.
"They are trying to assault the Speaker," UNP legislator Harsha de Silva tweeted from the House. Objects were thrown at the Speaker's chair and at least one MP was seen leaving the chamber bleeding, an official said. A group of lawmakers attacked the Speaker, threw a waste paper basket at him while breaking his microphone and also hurled a book at him during the session, the online edition of the Sunday Times reported.