Raising a matter of privilege in parliament yesterday (06), MP Chandima Weerakkody alleged that he was threatened by defence secretary Kamal Gunaratne and the Army commander over his remarks about excessive vehicle usage by top rank military officials.
He brought up the matter on the previous day during a meeting of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security.
Weerakody said that he spoke on behalf of the people and emphasised that speaking for the people is his right that can only be silenced by taking his life.
He said firmly that no one should deter those who advocate for the people’s rights.
He continued, “The secretary of the defence ministry and the army commander responded menacingly during a sectoral oversight committee on national security meeting, when I brought up the issue of high-ranking military officials’ vehicle usage. Their behaviour was bullying, both within the committee and in Parliament itself.”
“When I asked them whether they would attack me for my concerns, they said in a very threatening manner that they could do it. Also, the defence secretary persistently made threatening calls to me. This incident constitutes a violation of my privileges as an MP, and I request a thorough investigation and immediate action to be taken.”
He elaborated on discussions within the sectoral oversight committee regarding the downsizing of the Army, suggesting that instead of reducing the number of soldiers, attention should be paid on curbing unnecessary expenditures by high-ranking officials, including the defence secretary.
“What I said during the committee meeting was even ministers now exercise prudence in spending, deserving respect for their responsible financial behaviour,” he said.
Weerakkody expressed astonishment at the alleged extravagant spending, claiming that the current allocation of Rs. 80 million for the construction of the garden of the Army commander’s official residence.
“I call for an end to such expenditures. I also have information about what this defence secretary does when he goes to attend the board meeting of the Civil Aviation Authority. Before his arrival, a group of fifteen individuals inspects the premises. Who pays for these things? When we speak against these things, they threaten us.”
“Also, this defence secretary goes jogging at Independence Square in the mornings. Two soldiers go ahead of him with two dogs. After him a jeep and another vehicle follow. What is the origin of the funding for such arrangements? The public blames all the 225 MPs over excessive expenditure. I can remember another incident. This defence secretary came for an event in a temple in my electorate, Baddegama, where an extravagant entourage arrived before him, making it difficult even to conduct almsgiving for the Buddhist clergy,” he alleged.
Weerakkody requested the deputy speaker, who was presiding over the sittings, to take steps to protect the video recording of the said committee meeting.