Mayhem in the House
A very pronounced
redeeming feature of the mayhem that enveloped Parliament on
Budget Day was the way in which President Mahinda Rajapaksa
managed the vicious invective which was directed at him from the
Opposition benches. He stood tall and took it all with an
equanimity of spirit which was exemplary. The seasoned
politician that he was, the President never for a moment lost
his calm and self possession. This was an object lesson in the
handling of rowdy conduct of a very offensive kind.
One could argue that the mayhem which broke out in Parliament
on November 21st is nothing new and that such scenes have been
witnessed not only in the local legislature on occasions past
but in legislatures in other parts of the democratic world too.
This may very well be the case but this no excuse for some of
our 'law makers' to run amok within the hallowed precincts of
the highest law-making institution of the land. Two or many
other wrongs do not make a right.
Accordingly, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa could not have done
better than to get down to investigating the lawless conduct by
some of our law makers on Budget Day and to initiate
disciplinary action against them.
There is no getting away from the fact that the Rule of Law
must be upheld everywhere, regardless of whether the place in
question is the legislature or elsewhere.
That said, it cannot be emphasized enough that the
lawlessness of Budget Day was instigated and sustained a great
deal by sections of the Opposition. They are not only guilty of
provoking rowdy behaviour through their very 'unparliamentary'
conduct of carrying inflammatory placards into the legislature
and getting on to a highly confrontational course with the
government side, but of also violating very grossly all norms of
democratic behaviour by attempting to prevent the President, in
his capacity of Finance Minister, from making his budget speech.
As some quarters have observed, these sections of the
Opposition seemed to be working to an established plan of
destructive behaviour. They were all out to disrupt the business
of Parliament from the very inception and in the process they
were not only pandering to the baser emotions of the volatile
sections of the larger public but trying to impress some
international quarters too. It seemed as if the trouble-makers
were playing roles which were dictated to them from some
external elements which enjoy the spectacle of this country
being in a state of crisis.
Moreover, the most hallowed norms of good parliamentary
behaviour were wantonly violated and thrown to the winds. As far
as our memory serves, such unruly scenes have never been
witnessed on Budget Day. The scrupulously observed principle
thus far has been to allow the government of the day to present
its budget proposals without let or hindrance and to present
one's criticisms, if any, at the allocated time for such
objections or arguments.
In fact, Parliamentary tradition dictates that the Opposition
plays a prominent role in ordering Parliamentary business for
the budget debate. This being the case, the behaviour resorted
to by the relevant sections of the Opposition would strike the
observer as most intriguing. One could not be faulted for
inferring that these sections of the Opposition were intent on
scuttling the presentation of the budget by the President at any
This begs the question: how democratic and true to the
highest values of representative governance are these sections
of the Opposition which ran amok? How would such bizarre
behaviour contribute towards the furtherance of democratic
ideals? We have no choice but to conclude that those who gave
into lawless behaviour on Budget Day have travestied democracy.