Chambers slam brawling MPs
The disgraceful behaviour of members of parliament in the House last week has prompted at least two business chambers to issue statements expressing deep concern over their antics and the implications for the economy.

Our parliamentarians seem to think that shouting insults and pushing and shoving each other on the floor of the House is more important than what they were elected for - to debate and enact laws. Ruling party MPs may have had legitimate reasons to oppose the monk from the JHU taking his oath as a new member of parliament but their opposition could have been expressed in a dignified manner.

As it is, parliament is known to take a long time to pass laws and there are many important new laws and amendments to existing ones that have been pending for months, if not years. The business community, and especially foreign investors, have been eagerly awaiting the passage of these laws which are required for creating a conducive environment for business to flourish in the island. Also a crucial statement on the government's economic policies which was expected to be made this month by Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama will now be postponed for another month.

The behaviour of our MPs and the resulting delays in passing urgently needed legislation is detrimental to economic progress and creates a bad image of the country, especially among foreign investors whose funds we need if economic growth is to be accelerated to the levels required to make any serious dent in poverty and unemployment.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has pointed out that the incidents that occurred in Parliament last week "deprives the legislature of valuable time for the enactment of important legislation and in particular, the legislative enactments required for economic development."

There is another serious issue that arises from the disgusting behaviour of our MPs in parliament. How can the government maintain law and order among the public when lawmakers themselves ignore the rules of their own workplace - parliament - and indulge in the kind of behaviour commonly associated with schoolboy hooligans?

As the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said, pledging its support for every action taken to maintain good conduct in the Parliament: "Without such conduct, efforts to establish law, order and discipline in the country will be futile."

The National Chamber of Exporters, in its statement, said current trends in the law and order situation "would erode the very fabric of the export sector and the business community."

The business community is also deeply concerned that two months after being elected, the government is yet to fill many vacancies in government ministries, boards and other organisations.

Work is held up at key organisations such as the Public Enterprises Reform Commission where a full commission has not been appointed yet and no clear policy enunciated.

As the NCE said in its statement: "No decisions are being taken, having a "snow balling" effect on economic progress across the board. The negative effects are already being felt by our member exporters."

While we welcome and endorse the sentiments expressed by the chambers with regard to the behaviour of parliamentarians, we would like to point out that their case is weakened by their apparent reluctance to formally call for businessmen, or even their own members, to stop funding political parties and politicians.

It may be unrealistic to expect businessmen to stop funding politicians as it is well known they do so because they can expect favours and lucrative government contracts when their favourite politicians win power. But even a gesture would go a long way in sending a message to politicians as unscrupulous and vulgar as those whose behaviour we saw last week. A threat, especially a collective one, to cut off their funds would make even the most thick-skinned politician take notice.

Back to Top  Back to Business  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.