Sri Lanka’s parliament erupted in brawls between rival lawmakers yesterday, after a former army chief said a bomb blast apparently targeting ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse’s brother 10 years ago was an “inside job”.
Legislators from Sri Lanka’s ruling party traded blows with those loyal to Rajapakse who became enraged after Sarath Fonseka said the 2006 bombing was aimed at winning sympathy for the then-ruling family.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said several lawmakers were injured and one was later taken to hospital suffering a black eye after the worst melee seen in the legislature in more than a decade.
“I am deeply saddened by the behaviour of MPs in storming the well of the House and attacking each other while Field Marshal Fonseka was explaining (security arrangements for the former president),” said Jayasuriya, who was forced to suspend
proceedings for the day.
Fonseka, now a government legislator, said the December 2006 bomb attack blamed on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels had been stage-managed by the president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who was
defence secretary at the time.
“No terrorist will set off a suicide bomb 25m away from the intended target,” Fonseka told parliament during a debate on scaling down military security granted to the former strongman leader.
The government has said it is removing troops in Rajapakse’s bodyguard and replacing them with police commandos as part of a policy of relieving the military from civilian security duties.
Gotabhaya escaped the 2006 bombing in Colombo unhurt, but it killed two members of his military convoy.
Soon after the attack, the government asked peacebroker Norway to halt all contacts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Colombo withdrew from a truce and eventually crushed the rebels by May 2009.
Fonseka led the successful military campaign against the Tigers, but later fell out with the Rajapakse family over who should take credit for the spectacular military
He launched a failed challenge to Rajapakse in 2010 elections and was later jailed for two and a half years on corruption charges.
The former army general has since been exonerated of all charges and elevated to the rank of field marshal by Rajapakse’s successor, Maithripala Sirisena.
The general himself was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing in April 2006.
He recovered to lead the military in wiping out the rebel leadership in a no-holds-barred offensive that also sparked allegations of war crimes.
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