A wise move | Daily News

A wise move

The decision by the Parliament Privileges Committee to recommend legal action against the MPs who ran amok in the House during the recent political crisis, no doubt, would be welcomed by all law abiding citizens of this country, and those who expect dignified conduct from their representatives. A Special Committee was appointed by the PPC headed by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to probe the horrendous incidents in Parliament on November 14, 15 last year and the Report was handed to the Speaker two weeks ago. The Speaker in turn is due to forward the Report to the Attorney General to look into the possibility of instituting legal action against the errant MPs. According to the report 59 members had breached Parliamentary decorum. Of these, action is to be taken against seven serious violators -five from the JO and two UNP Deputy Ministers.

This is as it should be. There can be no extenuating circumstances to justify the type of conduct and behaviour that was on full display to the whole country and the outside world during that black November although certain offenders are attempting to blame the Speaker for the events that unfolded. What took place in the August Assembly was nothing short of hooliganism of the worst kind that would even put the ordinary riff-raff in the shade. For the first time in known Parliaments anywhere in the democratic world the Speaker entered the House to conduct sittings under police protection.

What followed was unimaginable from individuals who carry the prefix ‘honourble’ against their names as witnessed by the whole country. The acts of certain members can only be described as criminal. Can an ordinary citizen getaway with attacking the members of the police? How can one visualize our Members of Parliament descend to the level of highway robbers who throw chili powder at their victims to get at the loot?

Hence, nothing short of the maximum punishment should visit upon the offenders as would to any normal citizen who is in breach of the law. Parliamentarians who resort to criminal acts under the notion they have blanket privilege as MPs should be brought to heel, and, if need be, even thrown behind bars. The mere suspension from sittings of Parliament for a specific period has only emboldened MPs to act the way they do. This coupled with the live telecast of Parliamentary proceedings has thrown the August House of Parliament into ridicule. More so from a bunch of individuals who come under the appellation of ‘lawmakers’. For too long have they been given the kid glove treatment that they have taken themselves for granted and think they can act above the law.

The drastic measure to make Members of Parliament fall in line with accepted norms of Parliamentary conduct could not have come at a better time. We say this because waiting in the wings to enter Parliament are the siblings and progeny of the selfsame lawbreakers, who are bound to take after their papas and mamas. These worthies are presently biding their time in the Provincial Councils and other local bodies.

Besides, the appalling conduct of our MPs is also bound to send the wrong signal to anti-social elements who will be that much more inclined to break the law, what with the ‘lawmakers’ themselves making a mockery of the law. Like our honourable MPs, they too will think nothing of attacking police officers nor make free use of chili powder to accomplish their vile deeds. One cannot be blamed for thinking that the present Parliament is but a microsm of the prevailing lawlessness in the country, what with knife wielding MPs among the lot.

The MPs should also be made to give value for money. After all, they are being heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. As reported, a single day’s sittings cost the public purse over Rs 4 million. However there is little that is being given in return. What the public see of proceedings on TV more often than not are empty benches and even those present are dozing off in their seats. Curbs should also be imposed on un-Parliamentary language and boisterous MPs who insult the Chair should be removed from the Chamber forthwith.

Discipline should be enforced to the letter by the Speaker and where necessary Standing Orders should be amended to facilitate this process.

This is not to say that Parliament proceedings should be dull affairs where the MPs merely go through the motions. Even in the glory days of Parliament in the immediate post-Independence era there were heated sessions where members sometime crossed the ‘Red Line’. But nothing could be as bad as what we are witnessing today where the conduct of Parliamentarians have hit the nadir. Perhaps, this has a lot to do with the level of education and upbringing of some of our MPs. The problem is these types are the ones who gain favour with the political leaders from both main parties as vote getters, irrespective of the methods employed. 


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