By Ameer Ali –
The rowdy behaviour of a collection of parliamentarians this week was nothing short of a national disgrace. Their hooliganism and violence is now globally known and the government has become a laughing stock in the world arena. How shockingly the legislature of the country has lost its decorum, civility and standard of debating can best be understood by comparing last week’s rowdiness with one incident that happened in the past. If I miss some of the details of this incident I stand to be corrected.
Soon after the UNP lost the elections quite comprehensively in 1956 under the leadership of Sir John Kotelawala, and when the new MEP government held its first session in the parliament, the defeated leader Sir John arrived amidst some random applause from the back seats. One of those who sat at the back was C. Suntharalingam, the MP for Vavuniya and renowned mathematician who became first in the Indian Civil Service Examination beating Subash Chandra Bose. When he saw Sir John entering he addressed John, “machchan” and asked the leader to come and be seated next to him. All Sri Lankans know that “machchan” is a way of addressing among close friends. There was another person who witnessed this friendliness and that was Mr. Themis, a postman elected to the parliament on MEP ticket. After the session was over and when MPs began to leave Themis met Sir John along the corridor and called him “Hello John”. Sir John had apparently kicked him, according to some, or slapped him, according to some others. Angered by the pain inflicted Themis went and reported the incident to SWRD, the Prime Minister. Here is what that erudite leader did. He reprimanded Themis and said to him, “I myself call him Sir, who are you to call him Hello?”
This simple incident shows how party leaders in the past maintained civility and discipline within their respective camps and controlled the miscreants and misbehaved. Where was the leader last week to control his hooligans in the parliament? Was the leader tacitly encouraging this behaviour? How was it possible for a parliamentarian to carry a knife inside the legislature and stab one of his opponents? Was it premeditated? What was the security doing at that time? Was that member inebriated or under the influence of some drug at that time? What example did the other MP, who occupied the Speaker’s chair and prevented its legitimate occupant from doing his duty, set to young students in the country? Is he saying that it is ok now for a student who scored a low mark in the class to sit on the teacher’s seat and prevent that teacher from teaching unless he increase that student’s mark? Is that the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or Islamic value the parliament is promoting? Where is the outright condemnation from the religious leaders?
There was a time when it was part of a student’s educational progress to get a chance to sit in the parliament gallery and listen to the debates. It was a treat to listen to the polished arguments and counter-arguments between the government and the opposition represented by stalwarts like SWRD, NM, Colvin, Philip, Peter, Ponna, Chelva and a whole galaxy of them. Even the jokes they cracked during debates were civil and cultured and stuck in our minds to this day. Why did this golden heritage disappear from the supreme institution of this country? Do we need to introduce new regulations to upgrade the quality of those who aspire to become legislators?
The buck ultimately stops with President Sirisena for all that happened in the parliament. He has made a fool of himself by his inconsistent and contradictory positions taken in this prolonging constitutional saga engineered by him. He has made a mockery of the constitution. The fact that he has not uttered a word of condemnation about the appalling behaviour of his henchmen in the parliament says a lot about his mentality. Little does he, his supporters and advisors seem to realise that the country’s economy and with it the life of ordinary people have been shattered. Does he care at all? What a national disgrace? This country deserves lot better than what it is going through now.