Will an apology suffice? | Daily News

Will an apology suffice?

It appears that all those MPs who created mayhem in Parliament on November 15 are going to get away lightly, judging by the unfolding developments. The House appointed a Select Committee to investigate the incidents and identify the culprits with the assistance of the video footage of the scenes. While the investigations are still proceeding we had MP Arundhika Fernando the villain of the piece who committed sacrilege by occupying the Speaker’s Chair amidst the tumultuous scenes and carrying out mock sessions of Parliament. (It was reported that a Bikkhu MP was billed to do the honours but thankfully saner counsel had prevailed) tendering an apology on Tuesday in Parliament for the misdemeanour. The MP though appeared unrepentant and qualified his apology by insisting that the Speaker was to blame while also casting aspersions on the foreign diplomats present in the Public Gallery on that day.

The question that arises is can an MP who brings Parliament to ridicule in this fashion get away by merely tendering an apology. Not long ago we had MP Wimal Weerawansa who cast aspersions at the Chair being suspended for two weeks from Parliament by way of punishment. Certainly what Arundhika Fernando did was much more serious, nay scandalous. The Speaker’s sanctum, as those familiar with Parliamentary traditions are aware, is sacrosanct and anyone who defiles the Chair is guilty of a very serious offence where the most stringent of punishments is called and that which cannot be wished off by an apology.

November 15 was certainly a black day in our Parliament history, where, for the first time anywhere in the democratic world with a Parliamentary system, a Speaker was escorted to the Chamber by policemen. Not only that for the first time anywhere in a Parliament, death dealing objects such as knives were brought into the August Assembly and chili-power thrown at MPs reminiscent of a payroll heist on a Sri Lankan highway. The nadir was when water was poured on the Speaker’s Chair by an honourable people’s representative, the ugly scenes brought to the drawing rooms of a world audience over satellite TV.

Will all these be cast into the forgotten things of limbo in due course or will an apology suffice to exorcise the devils and wash away the defilement that the country’s Supreme Legislature was subject to on that forgettable day in our Parliament history?

The time has come to take a serious look at the whole gamut of Parliament affairs most importantly the conduct of Members and far reaching reforms introduced to arrest the decline. Members who misbehave repeatedly and disrupt proceedings of the House on a regular basis should be appropriately dealt with under revised Standing Orders with even expulsion considered as an option. After all Parliament incurs Rs.4.5 million for a single day’s sittings and it will be unfair on the taxpayers not to make full use of this money on their behalf. Errant MPs should be reined in by the Speaker in more effective ways than suspending them for a few days or by accommodating apologies.

For their part, political party leaders, should, at least now, ensure undesirables are left out of their nomination lists particularly after the recent happenings. It is also hoped that the voters too would sift the chaff from the grain this time around now that they have had their fill of the types they have been sending to Parliament regularly.

This is not to suggest that Parliament should be a sombre, lackluster, dull place where MPs merely go through the motions of passing Bills and legislation. After all, even in the immediate post Independence Parliaments, debates had been lively affairs laced with wit, humour, parry and thrust in the best of Parliamentary traditions. There were even instances when things came to a boil and members penalized. However what we are witnessing today could never have been in the wildest imagination of those stalwarts of yore. It is frightening to think that the next in line to enter Parliament are siblings or progeny of the present lot, now waiting in the wings in the Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies to replace their papas and mamas when it is their turn.

Meanwhile the tug of war for the post of Opposition Leader is still very much on, despite the Speaker already naming former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post. TNA leader R. Sampanthan is claiming otherwise and is set to take his case to the courts although the courts can rule only if Rajapaksa is qualified to retain his position as MP after he is alleged to have joined the Pohottuwa. Beyond that, the court cannot overturn the Speaker’s ruling, matters concerning Parliament being outside its jurisdiction.

It is a supreme irony indeed that the TNA had to lose the prestigious post of Opposition Leader by coming to the rescue of Ranil Wickremesinghe and by extension, protecting democracy. With the Supreme Court overturning the dissolution and with the certain return of UNP renegades back to the fold, it was only a matter of time before the pre-October 26 status quo prevailed.


 

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