Sunday Leader Editorial
The recent rumpus in parliament about senior parliamentarian Dinesh Gunawardena defying orders of the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and being suspended from attending sessions of parliament and a section of the medical profession not observing normal procedures following an order made by courts and contesting it in covert ways have focused public attention on their impact on two vital institutions of democracy, parliament and the courts.
We will refrain from commenting on the incident in parliament except to stress on the importance of an efficiently functioning parliament not only for the sake of democracy but also for the interests of the people at large.
Cartoon googled and added by TW
In the SAITM issue if there is disagreement with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the alternative course of action left is to appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment. Instead some old medical school teachers have declared themselves not vanquished and are arguing still though having made an appeal to the Supreme Court. This continued bickering does not augur well for the public confidence in the judiciary.
We have witnessed fairly recently Sri Lankan democracy reaching the brink of disaster with parliament being complicit in sacking a chief justice and lawyers taking to the streets protesting the appointment of a political chief justice.
Though the people are very much aware of the fact that parliament comprises their representatives who are representative of their sovereignty and courts are people’s institutions to protect their interests, people’s memories lapse and some people’s representatives in these institutions assume they have a divine right to rule people and others to pass judgment according to the wishes of their political bosses.
It is no secret that today the public disgust and trust on their elected representatives are indeed mounting. The phenomenon is not new. With each new parliament there has been steady revulsion with an exponential growth during the Rajapaksa decade. For the first time in the islands parliamentary history we saw a court jester being promoted a minister who took delight in attacking and humiliating those who had not cowed down to his stupid orders or those whom he did not like. His reign of terror in the Kelaniya electorate did not result even a word of admonition from his leader in public. Brawls in the well of parliament with the active participation of Buddhist monks, brats of leading politicians running amok at night in the company of their fathers’ body guards were a few features that caused absolute disgust of politicians. A decade long bout of thuggery, bribery and corruption is too much to be described here.
The behaviour of those who followed them is no better. The objectionable behaviour is less from the government side. The conduct of some in the opposition in the House is preventing serious and logical debating and at times reduces parliamentary proceedings shown on TV to street dramas.
Unlike in the hey-day of parliamentary debating in the 70’s and before where we had lengthy and serous contributions by legends such as Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, Dudley Senanayake, J.R.Jayewardene, W.Dahanayake, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, N.M.Perera and his comrades, what we hear now are short interrupted speeches that are hardly audible amidst cacophony and uproars of the whole house.
This is a sad and lamentable state of affairs for Sri Lankan democracy.
Sri Lanka’s experienced and knowledgeable political leaders should set an example for the younger legislators who appear to be ignorant of parliamentary procedure and conduct themselves in a reprehensible manner.
Certainly live debating from both sides of the House is essential but that should be done in accordance to the accepted norms and practices.
We cannot predict the outcome if the public loses its entire confidence in politicians present and those of the future but for a profession which depends solely on the goodwill of the community it can only be adverse.
The medical community comprising of doctors and nurses are very much a part of the community and cannot cocoon itself from existing society in the name of professional interests. Their existence from the kindergarten to their present professional status has been at the expense of public funds and serving the public is their primary duty. For health personnel to stage strikes for their own interests and then to claim ‘the success in their strikes’ simply means that they have put the sick seeking solace from them to pain and suffering.
Like every other organisation-professional or not they must abide by the ruling established organisations of the state, the courts, be it in their interests or not.
The people should tell politicians as well as medical personnel that they, the people, are the sovereign power and not organisations grouped together for their own interests.