Members of that edifice by the Diyawanna Oya met the other day to exchange views on the much-awaited Bond Commission — to employ a convenient abbreviation — report. But instead of exchanging opinion some decided to exchange blows. How like politicians who have much on their minds and little in their heads. It was not [...]


A plague on all these houses


Members of that edifice by the Diyawanna Oya met the other day to exchange views on the much-awaited Bond Commission — to employ a convenient abbreviation — report. But instead of exchanging opinion some decided to exchange blows. How like politicians who have much on their minds and little in their heads. It was not like that famous gun fight at the OK Corral which ended with much work for the mortician.
Still, video cameras appear to have captured scenes of a few bodies being dragged from the battle field which happened to be the well of the House where dignified debate instead of a cacophony of partisan shouting, is expected.

If representatives of the US and UK governments were around they might have urged another UNHRC resolution accusing our over-fed MPs of war crimes and undermining democracy while multiplying several fold the number of casualties which Lord Naseby deflated in a different context.

If the battle cry of “hora, hora” was heard before pugilistic parliamentarians waded into each other like some intoxicated old boys at so-called “big matches”, would this be the last audio visual confrontation before the Members’ Code of Conduct is adopted by this House sometime this week. Would this be the hurrah if not the last hora?

This might well be a forlorn hope as parliamentarians continue to provide the kind of entertainment that is expected on the small screen as live television coverage of parliamentary proceedings begins to invade the privacy of one’s home.

It is more likely that members with bloated egos and atrophied grey cells like officials in some state institutions could put on a show for the benefit of their progeny at home. Who can stop the little ones hugging the TV and shouting in jubilation “anna thaththa” as a round house kick lands on a pot bellied representative of the people.

I cannot vouch for the veracity of this story but I heard recently that political party nomination boards selecting candidates for the next general election are to insist that their prospective candidates hold at least a brown belt in Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, Hapkido, Kung Fu and plain and simple Cheena Adi practised with some enthusiasm in the bajaar as it is called.

It is not clear whether this art form is for use inside or outside parliament. But if it is true then this Code of Conduct that has been gestating for two years or so is in great danger of suffering from rigor mortis in its infancy. So much water has flowed under the Kelaniya Bridge and even over it some say, the code appears to have been washed away with it or buried in the Meethotamulla garbage dump.

Last week's ugly scenes in Lanka's Parliament: The code of Ethics for MPs appeared to have gone into a period of extended hibernation:

Of course some ministers and MPs would like to do a Nelson on the code and turn a blind eye hoping that all will be forgiven or swept under a Central Bank carpet like the bond sales “Affaire Perpetual”.Those who have followed that saga with interest might remember the multiple efforts made to cover it up and present an innocent face to parliament and the public.

In doing so the Code of Conduct appeared to have been pushed back to the end of the line by ruses as simple as not sending in their views on the draft as requested by the Speaker thus playing for time.Some might recall the Speaker’s gesture before the House adjourned for the traditional New Year in April 2016 when he gave each member a draft copy of the code of conduct to ponder over the extended vacation and convey their views and amendments on the code within two weeks.

So off they went their separate ways bearing their gift to feast and feast on others and to digest its weighty moral pledges along with the kavun, kokis and kiributh. But little seems to have happened to further the moral cleansing promised in the code. If an increasingly disillusioned people hoped that a House of refreshed MPs would return with their moral compass tuned to raise public faith in the behavior and usefulness of the MPs, they were surely mistaken.

For months on end there was this deafening silence. The code appeared to have gone into a period of extended hibernation. Whether this is temporary with the prospect of a Lazarus-like resurrection sometime or other or a state of permanence that would require the performance of the last rites, it was difficult to say at the time.

And time is not a commodity that the people of this Miracle of Asia have in abundance. They are quite accustomed to the numerous promises made by successive governments claiming to represent them, to fulfil their pledges. They cannot unlike Godot be permanently on the ‘waiting’ list. They are getting increasingly tired of prevarication and procrastination.

But if the public expected the MPs to return with their moral armoury replenished and their conscience polished, determined to serve the public good, those who still clung on to such hopes were sadly let down. Subsequent events so soon after their return from the New Year break to make laws for the people saw clashes and fisticuffs in the well of the legislature sending a couple or more of our honourable MPs to seek running repairs to their mien if not their anatomy.

It tended to buttress the growing public view that no code of conduct is going to alter the demeanour of some whether they had read the code or not. Since the code suffered that initial bruising at the hands of pugilistic parliamentarians there have been other instances which seem to suggest that the time spent on trying to change for the better the country’s political culture starting from the very place where laws are made and where the public expects sanctity, is most likely to be an exercise in futility.

The chaos caused by remonstrating Joint Opposition MPs during the ‘discussion’ of the OMP Bill leaving much of what actually transpired in some doubt is a case in point. If today the Sri Lankan public, like the British playwright John Osborne, look back in anger at being let down once more by political deception and hypocrisy this should come as no surprise.

A member “shall not assault, harass or intimidate another person,” said the code with magisterial portentousness. Such commandments unlike those that Moses brought from Mount Sinai are not likely to convert some of those who will be elected to the House, to polish their moral conscience and change their public persona.

It was just the other day the media reported that a member of the Uva Provincial Council summoned the principal of a Tamil girls’ school to kneel before him. This is not the first time that teachers and others have been forced by politicians to perform such demeaning acts to satisfy their ego.

If one cannot pass the “O” levels at least one can humiliate a teacher, right. Even if the code existed it is more likely to be observed in the breach by some unaccustomed to such moral protein and persuasion. That is the question which will continue to haunt a concerned public who have witnessed the intimidation and harassment and even assault of ordinary people and of public officials performing their legitimate duties.
It seems even the police chief likes to participate now and then as that widely circulated video showed. Talking of intimidation and harassment, many members of COPE presided over by Sunil Handunetti chastised a nominated participant from the UNP, Sujeeva Senasinghe, for his attempts to intimidate Central Bank officials summoned to an inquiry into the alleged Central Bank ‘bond scam’. It was alleged that Senasinghe’s abrasive approach was to frighten the officials and possibly thwart a quick resolution of the COPE inquiry.

What is worrying is that if the conduct of MPs within parliament continues to deteriorate as much as it has over the past two years or more when a new President and a year later a new National Unity Government for Good Governance headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took office, would a Code of Conduct change our political culture for the better?

It is not as though the MPs were unaware that such a code was in the offing. This was a pledge made by the leaders of the present government at election time. But are the leaders themselves ready to chastise their recalcitrant members or do they look the other way, if they do not actually promote their political progress.

The other day a youth made a complaint to the police that he had been assaulted by a State Minister. If parliamentarians engage in fisticuffs knowing only too well that the Code of Conduct which is intended to draw the contours of acceptable and civilised behaviour is to be discussed in the House a few days from now could the public expect any improvement in the political culture that the new government promised to cleanse?

Next month the local government elections will bring aspiring new politicians to the fore. Would they behave in the same disgraceful manner as some of their peers in local bodies and emulate some of their bull-dozing elders in national politics? Or would they try to change the degenerate and despicable political culture that now pervades the nation?
Don’t count on the latter.

Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.