A convicted murderer on death row was sworn in as a Sri Lankan MP on Tuesday, after a court ruled that he could not be barred from the country’s Parliament.
Many MPs walked out when Premlal Jayasekera was sworn in by the speaker as the member representing Ratnapura district, a gem mining centre, southeast of the capital Colombo.
Jayasekera was convicted of murdering activist Susil Perera in January 2015.
He was sentenced to death, but Sri Lanka has not carried out an execution since 1976, though last year the previous government announced plans to resume the practice, reports CNN.
While the case against him was pending, Jayasekera was nominated by the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPF) as a parliamentary candidate.
When SLPF won a landslide victory last year, Jayasekera was one of 145 candidates elected to Parliament.
SLPF is run by the Rajapaksa brothers, Gotabaya and Mahinda, who are president and prime minister of Sri Lanka.
Jayasekera’s election triggered a string of legal issues, as he and his allies tried to get permission for him to attend Parliament from prison.
Eventually his case reached the Court of Appeal, which ruled this week that he should be permitted to take his oath of office.
The court ruled that his election was valid, so he should be allowed to attend Parliament. But it left the matter of whether or not to swear Jayasekera in as an MP to the speaker.
On Tuesday, Jayasekera was escorted to Parliament by armed prison guards. There, he took the oath of office and formally became an elected lawmaker.
Opposition MP Anura Kumara said it was “unjust” for someone serving life in prison or a death sentence to be a member of Parliament.
Other parliamentarians chanted “shame” and wore black shawls in commemoration of Jayasekera’s victim.
Jayasekera will be escorted in a similar fashion whenever Parliament is in session.
He won’t be the only MP going about his duties under armed guard.
Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, a former Tamil Tiger guerrilla rebel during the separatist war, has been in jail since 2015, awaiting charges connected to the murder of a member of the Tamil National Alliance in Batticaloa in 2005.
The two jailbirds will make unconvincing lawmakers, say victims’ groups.