MPs and their offended dignity | Daily News


MPs and their offended dignity

Both Government and Opposition MPs want their lot treated with due dignity and honour by the Police when making arrests among their number. They have joined forces in raising objections to what they call the undignified conduct of the police when arresting Members of Parliament for whatever offence.

They want a set of guidelines to be observed by the Police when taking a MP into custody. The objections were recently brought to the notice of the police top brass at a meeting held in Parliament presided over by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and attended by Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Defence Secretary Major General (rtd.) Kamal Gunaratne, according to media reports.

The MPs pointed out that arrests of MPs should be done in a manner that did not damage the dignity and status of the MP concerned or the dignity of the police officer making the arrest, for that matter. Ideally, an MP accused of an offence should be requested to present himself or herself at the Police station, they opined. Things have, however, turned topsy turvy after MP Ranjan Ramanayake hugged a policeman and took selfies together with other policemen during his arrest, putting police chiefs in an embarrassing situation. This, however, was better than evading arrest for a couple of days, which is exactly what another MP did recently seemingly with no repercussions. Both these scenarios would not have been possible for an ordinary citizen.

Our Parliamentarians, whatever political party they may belong to, are quick to take offence when their so called dignity is affected. This is seen by the numerous Points of Order and Privilege issues raised in the House by MPs claiming their dignity and honour had been breached by actions of others. They also cling to their privileges and make a hue and cry when such privileges are ridden rough shod over.

There are those who may argue whether our people’s representatives deserve to be treated with any degree of dignity at all, given the appalling behaviour of some of our honourable MPs in the hallowed precincts of Parliament. After being at the receiving end of physical violence inside Parliament not long ago the Police, too, may object to treating our MPs with dignity.

Time and again, the Public Gallery had to be evacuated of schoolchildren to avoid their having to listen to the un-parliamentary language used by our honourable peoples’ representatives and avoid exposing them (schoolchildren) to the harrowing ordeal of fisticuffs and all-in wrestling bouts by MPs. Who in their right minds would accord any dignity to a bunch of individuals who even brandished knives inside the august House? What dignity can an MP command, people may ask, after he tried to stage a mock suicide by attempting to hang himself from a rope tied to a ceiling fan?

To accord any degree of dignity the recipient has to be worthy of such an honour. But how can our MPs qualify for such treatment when, persistently, a majority of them have avoided fully declaring their assets and net worth, despite calls for transparency in an age when political corruption is seen as endemic?

No less a personage than President Gotabaya Rajapaksa revealed, in his maiden address to Parliament, that the conduct of our MPs left much to be desired and, had wanted standards raised in the assembly of the people’s elected representatives. The President was comparing the scenario that existed when he, as a schoolboy used to visit Parliament, with the present ethos of our national legislature.

And it is not just the issue of their general conduct. Our MPs are known to even shirk their fundamental duties as Parliamentarians. House sittings are characterized by empty benches and, even when present, some MPs are seen in deep snooze. Ministers are often not present in the House to answer questions raised on behalf of the public.

It is hoped that the President’s reform measures that he put in place no sooner he assumed duties would extend to Parliament as well where the public will be better served by a more productive legislature.

The President would have won much kudos for doing away with the Duty Free vehicle import permits for MPs. He would also win accolades if steps are taken to scrap the pension granted for MPs after serving a mere five years and reserve it to those parliamentarians who are re-elected in appreciation of their public service. He had already shown the way by drastically slashing the fat salaries drawn by heads of Government agencies. It is certainly unfair when one considers that a Government servant has to work for 20 plus years to qualify for a pension as compared with the MP’s minimum of a single 5-year term.

In this respect too both the Government and the Opposition are known to set aside their differences and join forces in order to protect their interests, and, no doubt, would fight tooth and nail to ensure their pensions remain intact. Here too is conduct showing that our honourable people’s representatives are wanting in dignity. The answer perhaps lies in sending more professionally qualified youth to Parliament. Political parties must give more opportunities for such youth, especially women, to contest at the next General Election and the public too must reject unworthy candidates.

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