LAWMAKERS in Sri Lanka’s Parliament threw punches at each other yesterday after opposition members protested the removal of military security for former President Mahinda Rajapakasa. One of the MPs was hospitalized.
Opposition lawmakers and Rajapaksa’s supporters argued that the ex-president’s life was threatened after 50 military guards were withdrawn from his security detail and substituted instead with police personnel.
Opposition members demanded that the government reinstate the army security, saying the police detail was not trained in VVIP security.
They pointed out that Rajapaksa led the military when it finally defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels to end Sri Lanka’s long civil war, making him a prime target for retaliatory attacks.
Rajapaksa lost his bid for re-election as president last year but was later elected as a lawmaker.
The government said a security council has decided to deploy only police officers, not soldiers, for the security of lawmakers.
“I strongly condemn the incident,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told members of parliament, according to Reuters.
“Several members were injured and one legislator has been hospitalized,” he said, suspending proceedings for the day. Vowing action against lawmakers behind the brawl, he ordered an investigation into the incident.
According to media reports, UNP MP Sandith Samarasinghe was sent to hospital with minor injuries.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press