Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (23) expressed his regret over SLPP MP Janaka Tissakuttiarachchi’s sexist remarks levelled at SJB MP Rohini Wijeratne Kavirathna and the Opposition Leader’s wife in Parliament on 20 November.
He warned the SLPP MP not to repeat the same conduct in the Chamber ever, after the Women Parliamentarian’s Caucus requested him to take a stance on the matter on Monday (22). MP Wijeratne also raised a privilege matter on the same day against the remarks made by Tissakuttiarachchi.
The Speaker expressed his regret over MP Tissakuttiarachchi’s derogatory and sexist remarks made in the Chamber on a previous day, and warned that stern action will be taken if such statements are made by any MP in Parliament in the future. He advised both the Chief Government Whip and Chief Opposition Whip to educate MPs in their camps to avoid such situations in the future.
Chaos erupted in the Parliament Chamber yesterday (23) when Tissakuttiarachchi refused to apologise for his sexist remarks.
Triggered by this refusal, SJB MPs Hesha Withanage and Chaminda Wijesiri were seen charging towards the ruling party MP. Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando and Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa quickly intervened, while Fernando stopped two MPs from crossing the Well of the Chamber.
A few MPs from the ruling party including Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando, Indika Anuruddha and Kanchana Wijesekera were there at the scene. The MPs were seen accusing each other using unparliamentary language and pushing each other. The Serjeant-at-Arms who was in the middle of the melee was seen losing his balance and almost hit the floor.
Tissakuttiarachchi, despite finding himself in hot water, refused to apologise, and this led the Opposition MPs to protest against him.
He said he did not make any sexist remark against Rohini Wijeratne or any other woman.
“I only mentioned names of vegetables. I do not see any problem in that. You see my remarks as vulgar because your minds are vulgar. It is a problem of your minds, not mine,” he said.
Although the Speaker said it was better that Tissakuttiarachchi made an apology rather than trying to defend his conduct, the latter continued the impulsive speech, saying that he would not apologise, until Rohini Wijeratne makes it clear to him how using names of vegetables become sexually-derogatory terms.
Several parliamentarians including State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella, SJB MPs Thalatha Atukorale, Nalin Bandara, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and JJB MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya condemned the sexist remarks against female MPs in Parliament.
MP Ajith Rajapakse said he did not hear Tissakuttiarachchi’s sexist remarks while he was presiding the sitting on 20 November.
Tissakuttiarachchi used indirect sexual slurs, using names of vegetables in the Parliament Chamber on 20 November in response to Rohini Wijeratne’s speech made on the previous day (19).
The Opposition MPs strongly condemned the remarks made by Tissakuttiarachchi and requested SLPP MP Ajith Rajapakse, the Chairperson who presided the sitting to remove those remarks from the Hansard. However, Rajapakse said he did not hear any derogatory terms from Tissakuttiarachchi and refused to remove them. He said he would convey the matter to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.