Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) inquiring into allegations against former Governor of the Eastern Province M L A M Hizbullah, has violated established protocol related to chairing such inquiry by both the content and tone of questions directed to the respondent.
Wickramaratne showing lack of restrain in voice and body language, accompanied by sarcastic facial expressions badgered Hizbullah about Arabic design elements in the controversial so-called Shariah University being set up in Kattankudy.
Hizbullah in response said that design preference is a matter of personal choice. When Colombo Telegraph enquired from Wickramaratne if it was appropriate for the Chairman of a PSC to ask such questions in that manner, he responded thus: ‘When he (Hizbullah) was asked why Arabic architecture, Arabic sign boards and date palm trees were used in Kattankudy, his answer was that it was to attract Arabic tourists. I asked him the reason for using Arabic architecture in an educational institute. In view of the answer he gave earlier this was a very relevant question.’
The PSC is inquiring into funds received to build the so-called Shariah university, funding sources and whether or not monies obtained were used for purposes they were solicited for.
The design element, in any event, is extraneous to the issue at hand, Colombo Telegraph notes, observing the important hospitals such as the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital and the Sri Jayawardenepura Teaching Hospital had elements heavily drawn from traditional Japanese architecture.
In the past, many buildings donated or funded by foreign nations have had their total architecture or elements of it influenced or inspired by the donor culture. Example are, some buildings of the Peradeniya hospital (Japanese), BMICH (Chinese), Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital (Japanese), Nelum Pokuna theatre (Chinese).
A political observer commenting to Colombo Telegraph stated “it’s inappropriate for Jayampathy Wickramaratne to behave the way he did. Not only the questions he posed, but also his facial expressions of sarcasm bordering on sardonic demeanor takes away the impartiality expected of a chairperson of a Parliamentary Select Committee – a body that is so significant and powerful to challenge even the statements made under parliamentary privilege. Like an impressionable teenager he is giving in to the social media populism and an insecure need for validation. He has no electorate to back him and unlike the legends of yesteryears who went to parliament from the National List, such as Lakshman Kadiragamar, Wickramaratne is a non-entity to the people. He is looking for cheap popularity by swinging with the social media tide. In the current racially tense political environment, the shortest cut to cheap popularity is to appear to ‘give a piece of one’s mind to the Muslim politicians’ at the PCS. If you ask rude questions from Muslim politicians and react to answers given by Muslim witnesses in a rude manner it instantly boosts your social medial popularity. Also if a witness before the PSC is blunt, disrespectful and practically bark back racist answers at the PSC, he too becomes an overnight social media celebrity. Both the insecure politicians and public servants are after cheap popularity and the social immunity it provides”.
A chartered architect commenting to Colombo Telegraph stated “how can Jayamapthy Wickramaratne ask such an imbecilic question such as ‘why Arabic architecture was used in the design of an educational institution? This is the sad state of uncultured politicians without finesse. They travel the world on tax payers’ money but they do not have the intellectual sophistication to appreciate cultures and societies. They do not know that our built world is influenced by different cultural traditions. Arab architecture, Moghul traditions of design, all stemming from Islamic civilizations have historically contributed to worldly beauty. All around Europe, east and south Asia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa, Islamic architecture has left its mark. A crude mind is unlikely to understand such nuances. What’s next? Crude parliamentarians are now going to dictate to us how to design spaces, which artistic traditions to be influenced from? Are we to fear our imagination and only design ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ buildings when designing educational institutions”?
The political observer, in his parting remarks stated “throughout the questioning of the Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, MA Sumanthiran MP repeatedly asked if the Secretary was aware of the Grade 3 syllabus. He enquired if the Secretary did not know that different nationalities wore different kinds of clothes. May be Sumanthiran should ask from the chairman of the PSC Jayampathy Wickramaratne: “did you pass Grade 3? Didn’t you learn for Social Studies that different buildings in different geographies reflect different cultures? Don’t you know that architecture differs, even within a country? All these politicians should get off their high horses” he commented.