Speaker, SB admit empty parliament a tragedy


By Shamindra Ferdinando

One-time SLFP General Secretary and MP S.B. Dissanayake yesterday acknowledged that standards had deteriorated to such an extent parliament was now regularly struggling to maintain the required quorum.

Dissanayake said that it was a major national issue and a very tragic situation.

The National List MP said so when The Island pointed out that the adjournment of parliament about one and half hours before for want of quorum as he along with National List colleague Dilan Perera were addressing

the media at the residence of another National List MP Tilanga Sumathipala at Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha, Punchi Borella.

Asked whether the JO grouping with a membership of almost 69, too, was responsible for the pathetic situation in parliament at a time the day's sittings cost the taxpayer about Rs 5 mn with nothing in return to the nation, while lawmakers received a range of perks and privileges, in addition to the monthly salary, Dissanayake admitted the parliament was in crisis. Recalling keen interest shown by members at the time he first entered parliament at the 1989 parliamentary polls, Dissanayake said that MPs prepared for speeches by perusing books available at the library. "Today, the majority neither prepares to address the House nor attends it," Dissanayake said.

The rebel SLFP group called yesterday's briefing during scheduled sittings. Dissanayake also acknowledged recently the parliament had to be adjourned on three consecutive days for want of quorum.

The entire JO group skipped parliamentary sittings to join 'Jana Balaya Colombata' campaign on the previous day.

Dissanayake blamed the top UNP leadership for the rapid deterioration of discipline among the government group. According to him, members had been instigated by the top UNP leadership against President Maithripala Sirisena after he ruled out enhancing members’ salaries in accordance with a decision taken in 2006.

Dissanayake alleged that the UNP was of the view that even the Mahanayakes could be bribed.

Dissanayake alleged that lawmakers were routinely influenced with financial grants. Referring to Joint Opposition moved no-faith motion against Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe last April, Dissanayake alleged some lawmakers received bags full of money to vote against the motion.

Dissanayake claimed that parliamentary standards nose-dived after the change of government. The people rejected MP accommodated on the UPFA National List accused some of SLFP colleagues of receiving special treatment from the UNP.

The Island also sought an explanation from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya as regards lawmakers skipping parliament at will. Jayasuriya admitted the difficulty he was faced with. Asked whether who would be held accountable for the pathetic situation, the Speaker said that waste of public funds couldn't be condoned under any circumstances.

PAFFREL and March 12 Movement spokesman Rohana Hettiarachchi yesterday told The Island that all political parties represented in parliament should accept responsibility for deterioration of parliamentary standards. Hettiarachchi said that the failure to ensure quorum at the onset of Thursday's sittings revealed the chaotic situation in parliament. "We are faced with an unprecedented crisis," Hettiarachchi said, urging political parties to arrest the situation.

Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi asserted that the negative reportage of the parliamentary sessions would cause debilitating damage to lower levels of political power. The civil society activist was referring to Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.

Hettiarachchi noted at the time the parliament was adjourned, the UNP was celebrating its 72 anniversary at Sirikotha.

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