SL’s “Garden Politicians”

Dinesh got it coming (Daily News Editorial)

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, perhaps, would have been the custodian of parliament in recent memory who has had to endure the worst kind of brickbats, nay invective, from a section of his charges representing the Opposition. Since he assumed the mantle of Speaker of Parliament, in August 2015, to say that Jayasuriya has been wearing a crown of thorns, would indeed be an understatement. Since that day, he has been at the receiving end of scorn, and sometimes vilification, of the worst kind, from the members of the Joint Opposition, for refusing to dance to their tune.

Many have been the instances where his podium had been invaded by the JO hordes, virtually baying for his blood, for not giving rulings in their favour. Wednesday was no different, when the worst kind of rowdysm was witnessed among members of the JO, who, not only defied the ruling of the Chair but resorted to name calling of the Speaker which was unprecedented to say the least. Their grouse; one of their stalwarts, namely Wimal Weerawansa, being overruled in his demand to be recognized as the leader of a political party that has severed its ties with the UPFA, under which banner, the party contested the last General Election.

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The Speaker’s decision, which was arrived at in terms of the rule book, was not to the liking of the Joint Opposition, and WW in particular, who went berserk using unparliamentary, nay, unprintable language, in the August Assembly. The now familiar stampede to the Speaker’s podium, to grab the Mace, predictably followed, forcing a multiple suspension of sittings and eventually the Police been summoned to evict a JO member, nay, its parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena who was making a spectacle of himself in the House, coming to the rescue of his beleaguered colleague, eventually earning for himself one week’s suspension from sittings.

It was unbecoming for a politician of the calibre of Dinesh Gunawardena, who boasts of a rich political pedigree, to have conducted himself the way he did in the chambers of parliament. One would have thought that, years of being a parliamentarian, and a leader of a political party (MEP), he would have acted with more maturity and set an example to his junior colleagues. But on Wednesday Gunawardena disported himself as just another garden politician, keen to play to the gallery, for cheap political gain. This was hardly the Gunawardena stock, which the public, particularly the old timers, have come to know although father Phillip himself was a robust and rumbustious politician lionized by his constituents of the Hewagam Korale.

Blood curdling screams, the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair, to express a point of view, is not going to elevate Dinesh Gunawardena to the ranks of his more illustrious forebears, particularly as the leader of the MEP. No. He will only be reducing himself to the level of politicians of the calibre of Wimal Weerawansa and Mahindananda Aluthgamage. True, there have been numerous instances when boisterous MPs were evicted from parliament in the past. But these disruptions were not deliberate intentions to disrupt parliament and there was no vicious taunts hurled at the Speaker. But what the public have been witnessing during the last two years is a systematic attempt to throw parliament proceedings into disarray, by deliberate attempts at disruption. The demand made by Wimal Weerawansa fits into this pattern. By virtue of being political party leader he will have the privilege of making Special Statements in parliament willy nilly, in addition to raising objections and protests at party leaders’ meetings. Not just WW, Vasudeva, Udaya Gammanpila and Chandrasiri Gajadeera, who are leaders of the NSSP, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and the Communist Party, respectively would want to be recognized similarly and make “special statements” on a daily basis, and kick up rows in the process, not permitting a smooth running of parliament.

Be that as it may, the Speaker should resolve to deal firmly with members, who willfully disrupt parliament businesses, in the future. As has been pointed out, Rs. 4.6 million is spent by the public for each day’s sittings of parliament and they naturally, expect value for money. MPs storming the Speaker’s podium and running away with the Mace and trading insults across the floor is not what they expect their money to be used for. True, parliament should be a place for robust debate and the parry and thrust, that was a hallmark of parliaments of old, when men and women of quality and standing graced the August Assembly. But, many would agree that what we are witnessing today is an abomination, where parliament is akin to an arena of the gladiators.

It was from the likes of Dinesh Gunawardena that much would have been expected to turn things around and help restore the dignity of this premier people’s forum. Sadly though, the scion of Boralugoda had apparently chosen to throw in his lot with the riffraff, that has not only marred the illustrious name he bears but also called into question the political views he espouses.

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