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Sri Lanka’s parliament speaker allows Wigneswaran’s speech to stand

The speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament announced that a speech by TMTK MP C V Wigneswaran, referencing the indigenous nature of Tamil to the island, would not be expunged from Hansard after uproar from both government and opposition Sinhala parliamentarians.

In Wigneswaran’s speech, he opened with some sentiments in Tamil and then said in English, 

“I start my felicitation Honourable Speaker, hailing you in my mother tongue, the oldest living language of this world. And the language of the first indigenous inhabitants of this country”.

The matter was brought up by Galle District SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara, who said, “We raised a privilege matter in this House and pointed out that MP Wigneswaran’s statement with regard to Tamil homeland in the North and the East of the country was against the oath we have taken and demanded that it should be expunged. However it is printed in Hansard. This should be revised and the controversial statement expunged.” 

Nanayakkara accused Wigneswaran of racism was citing the 6th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution, which to this day outlaws “directly or indirectly” support for a separate state.

SLPP MP Shantha Bandara also argued for its removal, stating, “There is such a tradition that whenever an MP makes a statement against the Constitution, the chair is empowered to remove it from Hansard. Therefore, we request the Speaker to remove this reference with regard to the traditional Tamil homeland concept.”

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena however saiid that Wigneswaran’s statement was made “in keeping with his rights”.

"He has the right to express his views freely. That right should be there. If there is any discrepancy that has to be rectified, then you too can make a speech and express your views. The statement would not be expunged from Hansard.”

SLMC MP Rauff Hakeem supported the speaker’s decision, stating,

“Parliamentary powers and privileges Act has ensured that each member has the freedom of speech in Parliament. The Speaker in keeping with the Act made an order. I think that the Speaker is perfectly right in his order.” 

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