| by S. L. Gunasekara
(November 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Unruly scenes and episodes of thuggery in what is, for some quaint ‘reason’, termed the “August Assembly”, namely Parliament, are regrettably, nothing new. Perhaps a new “low” was established by the scenes of rampant thuggery in the presence of the President of the Republic and the leader of the UPFA/SLFP while the President was reading the budget speech.
It is heartening to note that the President’s elder brother, the Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa has stated that he would hold an inquiry into that incident. We do hope most sincerely that that inquiry will not turn out to be a colossal farce in the nature of the inquiries held into the internecine thuggery that was witnessed during the general elections in the Kandy District as well as the inquiry into the horrendous conduct of the synthetic ‘doctor’ from Kelaniya that was witnessed by one and all on television when that synthetic ‘doctor’, [now one of the multitude of Ministers with which we are afflicted] actually tied a public officer to a tree in the presence of police officers who, not surprisingly and most deplorably, did nothing.
Since the Speaker himself was a witness to the incidents, I for one can see nothing to be gained by appointing a committee to inquire into the incident unless of course it is to gain time, or to let the matter die down which is something that may well happen having regard to the short memories of our people and the likelihood of some other equally or more disgraceful incident occurring before long to over-shadow the horrendous incident of the 21st.
There also remains the question of what the Speaker can do to those who misbehaved even after an inquiry. The fact of the matter is that there is no punishment that the Speaker is by law entitled to impose and that the most severe punishment that Parliament [as opposed to the Speaker] is empowered to impose for a breach of privilege is to suspend a member from attending Parliament for a maximum period of one month. Would any of those thugs and hooligans who ‘starred’ in that display of disgusting rowdy behaviour care one whit if such a punishment is imposed? I think not. Thus, even if the Speaker meant well and wants sincerely to discipline those thugs, he is powerless to do so.
Politics, one must remember, is a field of activity which has now so degenerated that it is one in which most engage, not for the purpose of serving the Country or the People, but purely as an exercise in career advancement. As things stand today, it is the party leaders who have a decisive voice in respect of such matters which explains why sycophancy, boot licking, slipper soup eating and leader worship abounds in all parties. It is not, therefore, the Speaker with all the outward trappings of his essentially powerless office, but the party leaders who can restore discipline IF they have the guts and the will to do so. That is a gigantic “IF, and I for one do not think that any of those decrepit functionaries called ‘party leaders’ or even the equally decrepit `wannabee’ party leaders have either the guts or the will to do so.
Inquiry or no, the known facts of which there can be no possible doubt are that Members of Parliament of the United National Party have come into the Chamber with placards and exhibited them while the budget speech was being read. Parliament is NOT, I repeat NOT, a place for such puerile displays. While it is perfectly normal and to be expected to find placards being exhibited whether near the Fort Railway Station or at the Lipton Circus in demonstrations for or against any particular measure, one does not expect such things to happen within the precincts of Parliament which is, at least in theory, a place where genuine representatives of the People debate in all seriousness, the correctness or otherwise of proposed legislation brought before it or other matters affecting the governance of the country. There used to be a time when such debates were informative and served as a means of educating the public about the manner in which they were being ruled.
I recall the days of my youth when as a school boy I sat in the gallery of the old Parliament listening to speeches of the likes of Mr. Dudley Senanayake, Mr. J R Jayeyawardene, Mr. R G Senanayake, Mr. Felix R Dias Bandaranaike, Mr. Phillip Gunawardene, Dr. Colvin R De Silva, Dr. N M Perera, Mr. Pieter Keuneman , Mr. G G Ponnambalam QC, Mr. M Sivasiththamparam and so on and learnt so much from the content of their speeches whether or not I agreed with them. Could anyone be similarly educated by any of the speeches or things said and done in Parliament today unless of course it is to add to one’s vocabulary of obscene words?
Certainly the exhibition of placards and posters within Parliament would not go anywhere close to achieving such objective. The fact that these placards were exhibited leaves no room for doubt in my mind that those who held those placards did so because they knew or believed that such stupid conduct would please Ranil Wickremesinghe and that they could gain some ‘merit’ in his eyes therefrom.
By the same token there can be no doubt that those thugs and vagabonds of the UPFA who are paid by the public to function as legislators and not as thugs and vagabonds crossed the floor and actually assaulted some of the members of the United National Party [who were engaged in the utterly puerile and equally undisciplined exercise of exhibiting posters and placards to curry favour with their leader] could not have done so unless they genuinely believed that they would, by such acts, please the President and gain some merit in his eyes therefrom which in turn would result in some kind of promotion or benefits to themselves.
What a low opinion these legislators must have of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe!
To my mind, the biggest need of our country today is discipline and institutions for the preservation of law and order which are impartial, independent and unafraid of doing what is right and correct according to law regardless of whom doing so pleases or displeases–for without such discipline there is no purpose in thinking about development or the maintenance of peace in this country.
The unspeakable incidents in Parliament on the 21st and in the once venerated premises of the Courts in Hulftsdorp on Friday the 18th can leave no doubt in the minds of any reasonable unbiased observer that those thugs and vagabonds who besmirched themselves, our Country and their respective parties by so acting, did so in the belief (which I believe to be correct) that their conduct would be approved, condoned and even applauded by the leaders of their parties and of those political forces which they support.
Thus, the remedy for what happened is not to hold such inquiries as the Speaker proposes, which would at best lead to sterile results. The remedy for what happened is for party leaders including the President and the leader (under siege) of the UNP to instill discipline in the members of their parties and to make examples of those sycophants who behaved in such outrageous manner by taking firm effective and quick disciplinary action against them – for what they did was seen by the public of Sri Lanka who don’t need committees of inquiry to pinpoint those who were responsible. Above all, the country and the People and secondly the members of the respective parties of the President and Wickremasinghe must be shown and hence made to realise that neither the President nor the leader (under siege) of the main opposition party would condone such breaches of the law and such rowdy, undisciplined and illegal behaviour and also that the sycophant will not be tolerated within their ranks.
I quite realise that banishing the sycophants would be a ‘revolutionary step’ in the politics or administration of the affairs of our country – for to-date, eating ‘slipper soup’ and prostrating oneself before the President and/or kissing his feet have become ways of life. We have now come to a stage when we no can longer afford to view with a tolerant, amused or benign eye, such ridiculous self-defeating exercises. Let Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe take note of these matters and act quickly to punish and ‘cast into outer darkness’ the perpetrators of this kind of downright stupid antinational rowdy conduct. Therefore, it behooves both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to weed out the rowdies and the vagabonds who engaged in this kind of behaviour from their ranks and ensure that those given nomination for election to Parliament would be responsible and disciplined men and women who are capable of contributing to the life of the Country and would eschew any kind of sycophancy whether to Rajapaksa, to Wickremasinghe or to any other, and whose loyalty is first, second and last to the Country and not to any political leader or his/her political ambitions.
Unless they do so and do so fast, we are surely doomed.