Parliament and democratization
The democratic world
could derive considerable satisfaction from the fact that
democracy and Parliament would be taking pride of place at the
58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference currently underway in
Colombo. It is our wish that from now on, a renewed debate would
take hold in the developing world and outside on the role of
Parliament in the fostering and perpetuation of democracy.
A couple of days back, at a function conducted at Lake House,
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody had occasion to dwell on the
issue of the vitality of Parliamentary democracy. Among other
things, the Deputy Speaker mentioned that a principal perception
of the public about the local legislature is that it is a place
where wild squabbles occur among polarized sections. This is a
highly misleading impression about Parliament and its functions,
From the viewpoint of the democratic process, Parliament is
of the most vital importance because it embodies the sovereign
will of the people and is the country’s principal legislative
organ, but every now and then, some ‘Representatives of the
People’ forget these facts of the first importance. The unruly
scenes that sometimes erupt in Parliament are the dire results
of these bouts of seeming forgetfulness and irresponsibility and
the public could not be faulted for nurturing a not too
complimentary impression about Parliament, but this is not way
it ought to be.
Dignity and decorum within Parliament are sacred requirements
and our hope is that our ‘Representatives’ would constantly bear
this in mind. We call on them to cooperate fully with the
Speaker, his Deputy and other officials in maintaining these
standards because Parliament should in no way stand devalued and
downgraded in the eyes of the public.
However, indecorous behaviour plays a major role in the
perhaps unwitting denigration of Parliament by the
Another misconception which has been instrumental in
preventing the public from seeing Parliament in the correct
light is the notion that the local legislature is a mere ‘rubber
stamp’ for decisions taken by the Executive President. This
notion, while being highly erroneous, is born mainly of
ignorance and superficial understanding among some sections.
Parliamentarians are law-makers in the true sense of the word
and this needs to be understood by all sections of the public.
In fact, the theoretical understanding of the Parliamentarian is
that he plays a principal role in framing the country’s laws and
in most cases this is really so. Accordingly, the erroneous
impressions of the public would need to be erased and the
authorities are obliged to spend some time on this task.
However, Parliament remains the principal state institution
through which the people are empowered and we hope the CPC would
dwell awhile on this very important function of the legislature.
As we have argued, empowerment of the citizen and the
collectivity is the end of democracy and it needs to be probed
whether this is in fact happening through our legislatures.
If the Member of Parliament is a representative of the
people, he needs to work diligently towards realizing the common
weal and ways and means must be sought to further facilitate
This should be another concern of the democratic world. The
necessary institutions and practices should also be in place to
enable the MP to play an expanded and enhanced role in
law-making, since this is the prime function she or he is
expected to carry out.