Man Sentenced to Death Over Political Murder Takes Oath as Member of Sri Lankan Parliament

Premalal Jayasekara was convicted of murdering a member of an opposition party last month. He has appealed against his conviction.

The Sri Lankan Parliament witnessed an unbelievable scene when a man who is not only a convicted murderer but is also on death row walked up to the speaker's podium and took oath as a member of the house. Premalal Jayasekara, 45, was convicted of killing a worker of an opposition party only last month and was in jail when the new parliament, after the recent elections, convened.

Jayasekara is a member of the current ruling party – Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). He had already been nominated as his party's candidate for the general elections when the Ratnapura High Court found him guilty of fatally shooting a man in 2015. That incident took place in January of the year at the venue for a rally by SLPP's rival party.

Sri Lanka Parliament
Sri Lanka Parliament Twitter/Parliament of Sri Lanka

Unusual Parliamentarian

The convicted lawmaker fired at an under-construction stage which resulted in one person dying and two others suffering injuries. Due to his internment and conviction, Jayasekara did not attend Parliament on the opening day of the new term, August 20, as jail authorities didn't let him go. But the Court of Appeals, which he and his party approached, granted him the right to attend Parliament.

He was escorted by authorities to the Parliament building from the prison. When he entered the chamber, a raucous scene ensued as opposition MPs protested through slogans and shouting. Some MPs even walked out in protest. The oath of office was almost drowned out in the noises of protest coming from opposition benches.

Premalal Jayasekara
Premalal Jayasekara taking oath of office in Sri Lanka Parliament as speaker looks on Parliament of Sri Lanka

Outside Parliament, there is still hope left for the 45-year old MP. The death penalty awarded to him may well be struck down in favor of a less harsh punishment. Sri Lanka hasn't seen a death penalty put into effect since 1976.

Not a Unique Phenomenon

As bizarre as this whole incident looks, it is not the only case of a lawmaker in the current Parliament arriving for his duties from jail. There is another MP, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, who is also in jail and facing charges of murder himself. A former chief minister of Eastern Province, he too is brought from his prison to the supreme legislative body of the country for participating in its work.

The SLPP, led by former President of the country, Mahinda Rajapakse, recorded a convincing win in the parliamentary elections that were held on August 20. Regarded as a strong leader not averse to taking risks, he will have to face a lot of opposition for having a convicted murderer on the treasury benches.