Towards a new look Parliament | Daily News

Towards a new look Parliament

The Speaker of Parliament and a Government Minister, no less, are the latest to join in the chorus of public criticism on the conduct of some of our MPs, which, is a signal that things are reaching a breaking point that demands drastic action. Responding to questions by journalists in Kandy after paying homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena lamenting the conduct of certain MPs in the August Assembly expressed the view that unparliamentary language by some MPs had brought Parliament into disrepute and was an insult to the people. The Speaker no doubt as the custodian of the House has a ringside view of the happenings under his very nose and must be anxious to be rid of the stench emanating from what passes off as debates in the House. This perhaps is the first time that a Speaker has made his views known on the (mis)conduct of members of Parliament. Meanwhile Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma called on journalists reporting Parliamentary proceedings to focus more on giving publicity to intelligent debates between MPs rather than concentrating only on the vulgar and uncouth exchanges by foul mouths inside Parliament that has incurred the wrath of the public on politicians.

It is encouraging that the chief custodian of Parliament and a senior Government Minister have expressed their forthright views on the deteriorating situation in Parliament vis-a-vis the behaviour of MPs. It would be better still if the Speaker proceeds further and takes serious measures to implement a code of conduct to rein in our lawmakers. Of course, some time ago such a code of conduct was mentioned by custodians of the House only to see this project die a natural death. With Parliament debates given live coverage on TV certain MPs may get carried away.

Minister Alahapperuma’s advice to journalists to give coverage only to debates carrying substance will also be of no avail and so will the Speaker’s orders to the Hansard staff to delete all unparliamentary language. The caravan has already passed, thanks to live television.

In any event it is arguable, though, if the Speaker’s strong views on the conduct of MPs would have any impact nor the message taken to heart with any seriousness by our MPs. Previous experiences have gone to prove this in ample measure. As the saying goes, old habits die hard. The voters too in large measure have to take the blame for this state of affairs. They continue to send the same rogues, miscreants and corrupt elements who have already sullied themselves and despite the voices raised in unison by respected members of civil society, the Venerable Maha Sangha and leaders of other faiths enjoining the public to elect only decent and educated persons as their representatives. Leaders of political parties too tend to prefer such elements who could be big draws on elections platforms and/or for the money and muscle power of these personages by which means votes could be harvested.

Worse still, their kith and kin and progeny are waiting in the wings in the second tier elected bodies such as Provincial Councils and the Pradeshiya Sabhas which are the nurseries for advancement to the next stage when the papas and, mamas hang their boots or better still to join them in harness in Parliament. Therefore, things could only get worse as time progresses with men and women of the same quality adorning the seats of the hallowed sanctum of Parliament in the future as well. That paints a bleak prospect, indeed, as regards cleansing the Augean Stables.

It was only the other day that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa enjoined the public not to elect Governments that they had rejected before but to vote in others who have not been tried and tested. Indeed, this should ideally apply to not just Governments as a whole but also members who have known to have robbed the public and whose general conduct within Assembly did not stand up to scrutiny. However, the pattern continues unchecked which is a yardstick on the political maturity of the voters not to mention their judgement.

It behoves on all those who fervently wish for a new look Parliament where decency and honour will be watchwords, to redouble their efforts to canvass for men and women of standing in society and professionals and experts in the varied fields to occupy the Seats of Parliament. True, since Parliamentary democracy means the representation of the people’s will through members elected by popular vote, not all those elected are going to fit this description. This is where the National List could be used to the optimum to overcome this hurdle. Ideally, the National List should be made use of to accommodate professionals, experts and technocrats who will contribute to the development and progress of the country. Sadly though, this vital opportunity to get the best of our educated segments is being misused. It is time for a serious course correction to ensure that Parliamentarians become worthy representatives of the people on whose money they are being maintained.

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