Serious ! Hankies banned to protect MPs

Of that hankie ban

Island Editorial

Schoolchildren are no longer allowed to carry their handkerchiefs, of all things, when they visit Parliament, we are told. This ban has come following an incident where a student’s handkerchief which accidentally fell from the public gallery of Parliament landed on a lamp below, causing a minor fire early last week. Such is the concern MPs have for their own safety!

What is this world coming to when politicians enjoy the freedom of the wild ass to storm schools and even make teachers kneel down, but students are not allowed to take even their handkerchiefs to Parliament? It may be recalled that some MPs burnt copies of a draft bill by way of protest in the House way back in 2000. Several UNP MPs did so when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga presented her constitutional reforms package seeking to set up regional councils to Parliament in 2000. The culprits got away with that offence, which reminded us of Guy Fawkes’s Guy Fawkes and fellow conspirators planning the gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament

Guy Fawkes and fellow conspirators planning the gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament Photo: Classic Image / Alamy  (Pic googled by TW)

role in the Gun Powder Plot to destroy the English Parliament in the early 17th Century. He, together with others, was hanged, drawn and quartered for the botched attempt. Many an irate Sri Lankan must be thinking of doing a Guy Fawkes on seeing the despicable misconduct of the so-called people’s representatives and the criminal waste of public funds to maintain them.

Intriguingly, children’s handkerchiefs have been banned to protect a Parliament which has some elements who once bombed it. The southern terrorists who carried out a grenade attack in Parliament, almost succeeded in assassinating a President, a Prime Minister (J. R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa respectively) have become lawmakers, championing democracy. That blast left a minister dead and several other seriously injured. Their leaders and fellow terrorists suffered the same fate as Guy Fawkes subsequently at the hands of the death squads of the UNP governments in the late 1980s. These lawbreakers turned lawmakers are now in the exalted company of the former defenders of the northern terrorists who posed a serious threat to Parliament, bombed two Presidents, killing one (R. Premadasa) in 1993 and injuring the other (Chandrika Kumaratunga) six years later besides committing heinous crimes against civilians.

It is not the handkerchiefs that should be banned from Parliament but students themselves lest they should seek to emulate MPs during school debates and later in life. There have been some instances where children, in the public gallery, scared out of their wits on seeing lawmakers trading blows and abuse, let out screams. The question is how terrified children can wipe their tears in Parliament without their handkerchiefs.

The real danger of students visiting Parliament is that, impressed by the luxuries their representatives enjoy, they may think they can also sponge off the public, if they, too, drop out of school and take to politics early in life. Of course, there are professors and doctors among the lawmakers, but the children may think it does not make any sense to pursue higher studies, obtain doctorates or professional qualifications and finally be at the same level as those who have not even passed the GCE O/L examination!

We have seen rickety boneshakers that pass for buses disgorge poor, malnourished students with hopeless eyes and emaciated bodies near Parliament as part of their educational tours. What kind of education students receive there is anybody’s guess. We suggest that, if they are to benefit from such visits, they be at least treated to some victuals in the Parliamentary canteens, where food sufficient for as many as 2,000 persons reportedly goes to waste every month.

Teachers and parents need to be asked why schoolchildren should be taken all the way to Sri Jayewardenepura to see the people’s representatives misbehave when there are many decent places for them to visit such as the Dehiwala Zoo and the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Children, parents and teachers have a lot to learn from animals such as elephants known for their peaceful coexistence and readiness even to risk their dear lives to protect their babies.