-By Shantha Jayarathne
(Lanka-e-News -24.Oct.2023, 8.45 PM) In recent times, our revered parliamentary chambers, which should serve as sanctuaries for serious debate, have regrettably been marred by the unacceptable behavior of some elected representatives. It appears that Parliament has become a refuge for individuals with questionable backgrounds and ethics.
These social outcasts, who possess ill-gotten wealth in the billions, deploy their financial resources during election campaigns to secure or retain their parliamentary seats. Unfortunately, these parliamentarians often demonstrate a marked ignorance of parliamentary procedures and standing orders, and they seem more interested in enjoying the perks and privileges that come with their positions than in serving the nation and its citizens.
Rather than addressing the critical issues that concern our nation and its people, Parliament has devolved into a platform for ceaseless insults and personal attacks. This trend has significantly diminished the dignity and credibility of our legislative institution. It is indeed disheartening that instances of misconduct by parliamentarians have become all too common, tarnishing the image of our national legislature, which is supposed to be the guardian of our democracy.
A particularly distressing incident involved a group of schoolchildren who were compelled to vacate the public gallery of Parliament due to the unruly conduct of opposition MPs, specifically from the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). These MPs disrupted proceedings by invading the well of the chamber, displaying a disturbing lack of restraint that compelled the Speaker to suspend one of them for four weeks. Such behavior sets an unfortunate example for our youth, prompting us to question whether it is advisable for teachers to expose their students to parliamentary sessions during such turbulent times.
The most recent and unsettling incident involved State Minister Diana Gamage, who alleged that she was assaulted by a male counterpart near the parliamentary chamber. A viral video capturing their altercation displayed a deplorable lack of decorum, with both parties portraying themselves as victims while calling for legal and disciplinary action against each other. Such disgraceful scenes have no place in the halls of governance and epitomize the old adage that "a fish rots from the head down."
It is crucial to recognize that the behavior within Parliament, marked by indiscipline, intolerance of dissent, misogyny, violence, and dereliction of duty, has far-reaching implications for our broader public institutions. If our national legislature fails to uphold discipline, efficiency, and tolerance, it sets a damaging precedent for other institutions.
A particularly egregious example from the past occurred in 2018 when a group of MPs, who now hold positions in the ruling party, unleashed chaos and violence in Parliament. This included the outrageous act of throwing chili powder and damaging parliamentary property. Despite committing non-bailable offenses, these individuals faced minimal consequences, setting a dangerous precedent that further tarnished Parliament's image. What is even more disheartening is that the constituents of these MPs have reelected them with the highest preferential votes in their respective districts.
In conclusion, it is imperative that we address the pressing issue of Parliament's diminishing decorum and the alarming increase in insults and personal attacks. It is noteworthy to highlight that representatives from the JVP/NPP have been an exception to this trend. Figures like Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Vijitha Herath have served in the legislature for 22 years and have maintained a remarkable track record of adhering to the highest standards of parliamentary procedures. Dr. Harini Amarasooriya, representing the NPP National List for the first time, stands as an example of excellence among women MPs, with her outstanding performance during the last four years.
As constituents, we have the power to choose exemplary individuals to represent us in the legislature. The qualities exhibited by these dedicated representatives serve as a reminder of the kind of leadership we deserve. In the forthcoming elections, we should be discerning in our choices and opt for those who will uphold the dignity and credibility of Parliament, setting a higher standard for our national legislature. Our vote is a powerful instrument for change, and it's our responsibility to wield it wisely to shape the future of our democracy and our nation.
Former Senior Consultant
Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA)
by (2023-10-24 15:15:50)
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