Keeping mum | Daily News

Keeping mum

It is reported that JO Parliamentarians Johnston Fernando and Siripala Gamlath had not spoken even a single word in Parliament for the last three years. Neither of them had taken part in any Parliamentary debate since September 01, 2015. (In addition, out of the 283 sitting days of the Eighth Parliament, Fernando had marked his presence on 101 days and Gamlath, 70 days).

Incredible indeed, when one takes into account the loquacity of Johnston Fernando outside court houses, where he is being paraded before on a regular basis these days, when the MP speaks to the media. He was also a huge draw on TV chat shows in the past opening his mouth wide on behalf of Mahinda Rajapaksa, not to mention political platforms where his gift of the gab was very evident. Little is known of Gamlath, though, other than that he represents Polonnaruwa.

Most would venture to say that it is best that at least some MPs keep mum in the House, given the babel that is created in the August assembly on a regular basis. In any event, what passes off as Parliament speeches are nothing more than empty rhetoric. The likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Mahindananda Aluthgamage, no doubt, have more than made up for the silence of the Johnston-Gamlath duo not only with their garrulity but also other theatrics. Anyway, not much is missed by way of contribution to Parliament debate by Johnston Fernando if one were to consider the venom and vitriol he lets out in public, the kind of which ill befits the dignity and decorum, one is told, is associated with the country's supreme legislature. In fact, except for a few, most of our people's representatives hardly make any meaningful contribution to Parliamentary debate, which is the common thinking today. For a majority of them, Parliament is a place for rest and recreation topped up by a sumptuous meal at a heavily subsidised rate. When not dozing, they are at each other's throats and running away with the Mace, making a mockery of the whole Parliamentary system.

In a way, by keeping mum, the two MPs may have contributed towards reducing the din, even by a small measure- a din which had terrorized schoolchildren in the public gallery in the past. In fact it is best that other MPs too follow suit and remain silent, if Parliament is to regain its lost honour and prestige that was preserved by people's representatives of the immediate post Independence era. That was the time when Parliamentary debates were known for their intellectual content and where political giants matched their wits in the kind of parry and thrust which none of the present incumbents could ever aspire to. It was said that the Public Gallery, then, was often occupied by professionals, academics and university students lapping up the pearls of wisdom that flowed from the tongues of the NMs, Colvins and the Bandas. Not that Parliament was a dull affair then. It had its own quota of skirmishes. But never did these go beyond the established protocol and accepted norms of Parliament, according to old timers.

Be that as it may, there will be those among the voting public who will question the feasibility of maintaining the current crop of people's representatives who fail to represent their interests in Parliament. The tax payers fork out Rs. 4 million for each day’s sittings of the House. Are they getting value for money? The constituents of the two MPs no doubt would feel let down upon hearing that they had, let alone raising their voices, on their behalf, had kept mum for a full three years in Parliament.

One recalls a similar instance where Sri Lanka's premier starlet of the silver screen who entered Parliament on the National List, during the Rajapaksa era, failing to make even a single contribution to Parliamentary debate. When she did eventually speak, it was to let out some choice billingsgate against an Opposition MP (This actress cum MP also created a faux pas by tendering her resignation from Parliament and within days taking her oaths again). Like all MPs, she was also entitled to a duty free vehicle permit and is today the recipient of a fat pension, for her trouble.

The Rajapaksa candidacy

It looks as if the Rajapaksas are set for a long innings at the wicket. Currently on a visit to India, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa told The Hindu that his brother certainly would be a contender at the next Presidential Election. More bad news was to follow for those in the ‘pohottuwa’ aspiring for leadership. Rajapaksa told the interviewer that his son Namal could not be a Presidential Candidate since the Government had raised the age limit for a contestant.

In other words, in addition to his brothers, there is Namal Rajapaksa waiting in the wings to take over, at maturity, when the brothers have had enough and are done with.

Kumara Welgama, who, on more than one occasion, had openly stated in public that he had all the qualifications to take over the leadership, perhaps, will not have his aspirations fulfilled in his lifetime.


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