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Citizens' Mail

Epoch-making speech of Anura Bandaranaike

Ransacking my old collection of books, periodicals and paper clippings, I came across a very interesting speech of the then Speaker to the House of Representatives Anura Bandaranaike made on June 20, 2001 on the standing of the Speaker, the Parliament vis-a-vis the Judiciary, which I consider is relevant today with the no confidence motion proposed by the government members in Parliament. Given below are some excerpts from that lengthy speech.

In his open address he says ‘Hon. Members, I wish on this occasion, to make a statement concerning an issue which is of utmost importance and vital concern to all members of this House, which has been occasioned by an unprecedented event which occurred two weeks ago, namely, the issue of two orders by the Supreme Court seeking to restrain me, as your Speaker, from appointing a Select Committee of Parliament ….’

“The further orders contemplated in the two applications made to the Court, are very far-reaching nature and if granted would entail a stoppage of the contemplated proceedings under Standing Order 78A, which Hon. Members would please to see, is a complete and decisive intervention, amounting to interference, with the internal affairs of this House, over which the House alone is complete master and in sole control. This is a right and privilege which elected Legislatures of this country have long enjoyed and claimed to possess without it ever being challenged by any Court or other authority and unbridled by the laws and the Constitutions that have governed our affairs.”

I am also deeply conscious of my responsibility…….These rights and privileges are considered to be essential to the proper performance of the functions and duties of this House, and they constitute the collective inheritance of Parliament empowered by the law of the State that neither the Speaker nor any single member of the House can renounce or surrender or otherwise abrogate. Any such right, privilege, immunity or power does not cease unless it be by legislative amendment of the current law.”

Then he goes on to quote extensively from British House of Commons and also Erskine May over the supremacy of the Legislature – Parliament over the Judiciary and finally quotes our local judges H.N.G. Fernando and Attorney General v Samarakkody- “As was observed by an eminent judge of our own Court H.N.G. Fernando J[as he was then] in Attorney-General v Samarakkody [1955] NLR Section 3 of the Parliamentary [Powers and Privileges] Act of 1953 is an adaptation of Article 9 of the Bill of Rights. In that case in proceedings taken under Section 23 [1] of the Act, on an Application made to the Supreme Court, on an allegation that the Respondents were guilty of an offence triable by the Supreme Court, it was held that the conduct within the scope of the Respondent, even if it was disrespectful was not justifiable by the Supreme Court. It was considered to be conduct within the scope of Section 3 and 4 of the said act and therefore be questioned or impeached in proceedings taken before the Supreme Court. The jurisdiction to take cognizance of such conduct was accordingly deemed to be exclusively vested in the House of Representatives”.

There are more important and urgent matters which our parliamentarians have to focus their attention for socio-economic development of this country rather than petty personal and party differences, which have brought disgrace to the nation, locally and internationally and it is best for sanity to prevail and not make the Parliament a garbage dump.

 

G.A.D. Sirimal

Boralesgamuwa


 

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