2004 Speaker Election Conflict and the WJM

As soon as I heard the news of Mr. Lokubandara's death, I
was reminded of the 2004 election of the Speaker. There is no way that any
journalist in the gallery or any member of parliament who was present at that
time could have forgotten how WJM Lokubandara was the Speaker.


The 13th Parliament convened for the first time on 22 April
2004 after the April 2, 2004 parliamentary elections.

The newly formed United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had
become the largest group in Parliament with 105 seats while the United National
Front (UNP) won 82 seats. The TNA won 22 seats while the smaller parties won
the remaining 16 seats. The 2004 general election was the historic event in
which 39 JVP MPs were elected to Parliament in 105 UPFA seats. Also, eight or
nine monks representing the Jathika Hela Urumaya were elected to Parliament

When the Speaker was elected, the government proposed the
name of DEW Gunasekara and the opposition nominated the name of WJM
Lokubandara. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe may have hoped that
Lokubandara would have the support of the TNA and the JHU as the government has
only 105 seats.

Parliament convened. Everything was "stuff" after
that. Initially it was proposed to vote from the seats but it was disrupted
halfway. The second was to use the ballot by placing a ballot paper in a box
placed in front of the chair. That action also stopped halfway because the MPs
came from their seats and spent more time near the relevant box.

It was said at the time that the Opposition had taken a
hasty decision to cast their vote after showing it to their own Opposition MP
who was coming from behind. The opposition from MPs such as Mangala
Samaraweera, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Mervyn Silva who represented the
government was very strong. Also, MP Navin Dissanayake, who was in the
Opposition, turned to the Gallery of Journalists after casting his vote and
pointed his index finger at us saying 'Fit'. That may have been because there
was a rumor that he would join the government at that time.

The JHU abstained from voting in the first two rounds and in
the third or fourth round two monks (Uduwe Thera and another monk I remember)
abruptly cast their ballots and the rest of the JHU felt that it was a vote for
the government or DEW Gunasekera. With the monks also standing up to cast their
votes, Parliament became a battleground for the third or fourth time.

The government was further alarmed to know that many other
monks preferred WJM Lokubandara. I think the majority of those who represented
the JHU, Mr. Gollo Lokubandara, had no choice but to make a hasty decision due
to his knowledge, religious skills and other interests.

The conflict escalated into a historic attack on a monk's
secret area. I still remember the voice of the Venerable Thero reciting the
Dhamma in the form of a weeping man in a hospital bed.

However, WJM Lokubandara, who was nominated by the
Opposition as the new Speaker of the 13th Parliament of Sri Lanka in 2004, will
be appointed as the new Speaker.

Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the Prime Minister of that
Parliament (President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the
new Prime Minister on April 6, 2004).

In that 13th Parliament, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was the Chief
Government Whip and Maithripala Sirisena was the Leader of the House. Mahinda
Samarasinghe was the Chief Opposition Whip and Geethanjana Gunawardena was
appointed the Deputy Speaker. Janadasa Peiris, a media veteran, was also a
Member of Parliament for a few days in the 13th Parliament. Wijedasa Rajapaksa
and Mervyn Silva, who were elected from the national list, also became the most
talked about figures in this Parliament.

Some important events that took place in the country during
Mr. Lokubandara's tenure as Speaker

01. Ceylon Workers Congress MPs join UPFA to get UPFA
majority in Parliament

02. 39 JVP MPs resign from the UPFA

03. First Keheliya Rambukwella and Mahinda Samarasinghe left
the UNP and joined the UPFA

04. 18 UNP members (Karu Jayasuriya, Lakshman Yapa, Rohitha
Bogollagama, P. Dayaratne, RM Dharmadasa Banda, Navin Dissanayake, Edward
Gunasekara, Bandula Gunawardena, Gamini Lokuge, MH Mohamed, Milinda Moragoda,
M. Mohamed Mustapha, Hemakumara Nanayakkara, Neomal Perera, GL Peiris, Rajitha
Senaratne, CA Sooriyarachchi, Mano Wijeratne, Mahinda Wijesekera and 6 SLFP MPs
joined the UPFA (the word 'strengthening hands' is used here).

05. Omalpe Sobhitha Thero resigns and Champika Ranawaka
arrives in Parliament.

06. Jathika Hela Urumaya also joins the UPFA

07. Wimal Weerawansa resigns from the JVP

08. Messrs. Mahipala Herath and Reginald Cooray resign from
Parliament and become Chief Ministers

09. Imprisonment of Mr. S.B Dissanayake

10. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa appearing in Parliament from the
National List

11. Lakshman Kadirgamar, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Joseph
Pararajasingham, Nadaraja Raviraj, T. Maheshwaran, d. Mu. Dasanayake, K.
Sivanesan was assassinated.

12. Deaths of Anura Bandaranaike, Amarasiri Dodangoda,
Reggie Ranatunga, Alik Aluvihare and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi who represented
this Parliament.

13. WJM Lokubandara was the Speaker when Mahinda Rajapaksa
first became the President of Sri Lanka and at the end of the war.

Post a Comment