Minister and MP cross swords over racism, terrorism, violation of oath
By Saman Indrajith
November 30, 2020
There was discrimination against Tamils in this country, even in the remembrance of the dead, TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament on Saturday. “Nobody raises questions when the JVP remembers its fallen comrades and displays pictures of Rohana Wijeweera in berets. But when the Tamils remember their dead, the issue of terrorism is brought up. Isn’t this discrimination,” MP Sumanthiran queried.
He said so when Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera raising a point of order stated that MP Sumanthiran had attended a remembrance service of Pandithar, an LTTE leader.
Minister Weerasekera said that the MP had taken an oath not to divide the country and attending a remembrance of an LTTE leader was wrong.
The Minister raised to the point of order after MP Sumanthiran raised a privilege issue on commission of inquiry into political victimization had announced that he would be named for evading the commission sessions. “I have received from time to time summons from the Commissioner of Inquiry to attend before the commissions. I have been named a respondent in that summons. Since they were in Sinhala language I wrote to the commission that I be provided with the material to respond and to send English to Tamil translations of those matters.
I appeared twice before the said commission and made the same request. There the Commissioner ordered that I be provided with material and their translations. Nothing of the sort happened. Last week, I received another summons very late after I went home from parliament sittings, and I responded to the Commissioner the following day informing him of the fact that the material had not been provided to me in English or Tamil and I was not able to appear before the Commission when there were parliament sittings.
Later, I read in the newspapers that Commissioner of Inquiry Upali Abeyratne had some MPs including me were not coming before the commission and we would be named. This is in breach of my privileges. I urge the Speaker to inform the Commissioner of Inquiry that I should not be named since I was attending parliament.”
Minister Dr Weerasekera said that MP Sumanthiran talked of MP’s privileges after violating the MP’s code of conduct by attending a funeral of a terrorist. “That was against the oath he had taken as an MP. The Speaker should ask him about it. Earlier this week, the TNA MP went to the home of Pandithar’s mother, in Valvettithurai, where he lit a lamp to commemorate the fallen LTTE leader. He was one of the LTTE leaders who had killed security force members in captivity,” the Minister said.
MP Sumanthiran: I do not need to answer the allegation, but I do so since my name was mentioned. Sinnathurai Maheswari was one of my clients. I appeared for her in a case at the Jaffna High Court where the learned judge told me that she could conduct remembrance in public places but was allowed to remember her son who was killed in 1985 privately at home. It was not even a home, it was a shack. I went there on that day and explained to my client the instructions given by the judge.
Minister Weerasekera: The dead person was an LTTE leader. He was a killer.
MP Sumanthiran: Yes, he was a member of the LTTE. Nevertheless, he was her son. Every mother has a right to remember her children. The Minister has never raised any questions with regard to the JVP remembering Rohana Wijeweera in the streets of Colombo. Even in the remembrance of the dead, there is discrimination against the Tamil people. I did not want to respond to the minister but I spoke because otherwise this would be used in racist propaganda.
Minister Dr Weerasekera: You are a racist. You are the one who talks about majority sovereignty. There is no such sovereignty. Sovereignty is for all the people. You gave a very childish excuse. The mother can remember her son there is no problem, but an MP cannot go to such a place.
On the other hand, you cannot compare the LTTE with the JVP. The LTTE tried to divide the country. You should be ashamed of yourself to talk about MPs privileges after acting against the oath you have taken as an MP.
MP Sumanthiran: Why should I be ashamed? You are the racist you should be ashamed of yourself. Shame on you!
Minister Weerasekera: No, Shame on you!
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena moved the House for the next item.