“Who takes responsibility for the destruction of more than 70 houses of deputies and 600 other properties?
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka’s ruling Secretary General Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told Galle Face yesterday (23) that there should be no investigation into the violence on the eve of the May 9 incidents. and outside Temple Trees, and after the resignation of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Kariyawasam, an SLPP National List MP and lawyer, has strongly defended the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to deal with some of those arrested, in relation to incidents related to the so-called public protest movement. .
Kariyawasam said this in response to opposition political parties, part of the diplomatic community, as well as some local and foreign NGOs, condemning the issuance of detention orders under the PTA.
Referring to detention orders issued against three individuals, including Wasantha Mudalige, president of the Inter-University Federation of Students (IUSF), affiliated with the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), MP Kariyasawam said that interested parties conveniently overlooked the destruction of homes and other properties belonging to a third of the lawmakers, killing Polonnaruwa District SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and seriously injuring Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama.
How could a campaign of public protest, described as peaceful, destroy homes and other properties belonging to as many as 72 MPs, in the space of 24 hours, lawmaker Kariyawasam asked. Almost all of them were members, elected from the SLPP list, MP Kariyawasam said. The SLPP parliamentary group is made up of 145 members.
The SLPP official pointed out that a month later the protest movement destroyed the private residence of then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at 5th Lane, Kollupitiya.
When The Island pointed out that violence erupted on an unprecedented scale, only after the then government unleashed UPFA goons against those protesting at Galle Face and outside Temple Trees, the lawmaker Kariyawasam said the peaceful public protest campaign could not have stormed so many meticulously guarded homes across the country.
In fact, organized groups attacked the residences of five SLPP lawmakers less than a week before the May 9 eruption, MP Kariyawasam said. Among those attacked were Gamini Lokuge (Colombo district), Ramesh Pathirana (Gale district) and Roshan Ranasinghe (Polonnaruwa district), lawmaker Kariyawasam said.
Responding to another question, MP Kariyawasam asserted that the police, in consultation with the Foreign and Defense Ministries, should brief the diplomatic community on the real situation. They are expected to receive video footage of the destruction caused by organized gangs, MP Kariyawasam said, adding that as many as 600 other properties, owned by former provincial council and local government members, were attacked.
The MP said those who had been so concerned about the arrests and detentions of suspects, including in relation to the PTA, had never bothered to condemn the lynching of Amarakeerthi Atukorale, in the Nittambuwa police area . The first entrant to Parliament was lynched, along with his police bodyguard, on the evening of May 9, in Nittambuwa, MP Kariyawasam said. MP Welgama was nearly killed in Makumbura, Kottawa, the senior SLPP official said, alleging that the whole operation must have been planned weeks or even months in advance.
Lawmaker Kariyawasam pointed out that groups of bikers, wearing full-face helmets, were carrying out the attacks. Having failed to protect the residence of MPs and local government officials, the police should not absolve themselves of the responsibility of apprehending those responsible for violence.
The MP said violent elements have clearly exploited the extreme economic hardship, experienced by the public, to stage the violence.
The SLPP secretary general said law enforcement authorities and intelligence services should carry out a thorough investigation. Then-minister Dinesh Gunawardena alleged in parliament the deployment of drones to monitor targeted properties, including his own, while former MP M. M. Zuhair also referred to the use of such technology in the well-calculated operation, said the deputy.
Lawmaker Gunawardena said President Ranil Wickremesinghe had declared the emergency in line with the overall strategy to deal with the threat. The MP said he could not understand why some of those whose properties were destroyed for no reason voted against the emergency, playing into the hands of those seeking to subvert the country.
Lawmaker Kariyawasam said the role played by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in the public protest movement was questionable. The politician said he raised the issue, as an MP and a lawyer. Instead of adopting what he called a balanced view, the BASL threw its weight behind the violent protest campaign, with some members acting in a way that was completely contrary to their oaths, said lawmaker Kariyawasam.
Stating that the SLPP elected UNP leader Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term as there was no alternative, lawmaker Kariyawasam claimed the country was on the brink of succumbing to the terrorism when the ruling party intervened. Unfortunately, some of the elected, and nominated respectively on the SLPP list and the national list, conspired against their own government.
The lawmaker said those who asked then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down were behaving treacherously and still pursuing the same strategy. The SLPP official stressed that the so-called rebel group should not expect the ruling party to appoint any of them for positions in Parliament as in terms of Standing Orders. “The positions will be shared by the government and the opposition. There is absolutely no place for those who act as independent MPs,” the SLPP Secretary General said, urging all political parties, represented in Parliament, not to tolerate violence, at any level.
The lawmaker pointed out that even the rebel group was sharply divided over the contentious issue of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration of emergency.