Quorum bell ringingAugust 31, 2014, 9:29 pm
Poor as Sri Lanka may be its lawmakers enjoy better facilities than their counterparts even in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and have the best of everything at the expense of the public. They draw attractive salaries which even local professionals like doctors and engineers envy, live in palatial houses and have duty free luxury vehicles at their disposal. But, regrettably, they continue to draw heavy flak for shirking their legislative responsibilities.
Senior Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera has lashed out at MPs for skipping parliamentary sessions with Deputy Chief Opposition Whip and UNP MP Ajith Perera agreeing with him as we reported the other day.
Etymologically, the word parliament, derived from French, means ‘to discuss’. Of what use is a parliament where legislators are not present to discuss vital public issues? Millions of rupees are spent on parliamentary sessions and the number of sittings per month may be reduced to save public funds if the party leaders cannot ensure their members attend Parliament regularly.
It was once thought that poor parliamentary attendance was due to the commencement of sittings in the morning and action was taken to begin parliamentary sessions in the afternoon, but that measure, too, has come a cropper. There have been instances where even the MPs billed to speak during important debates were not present in the House much to the consternation of the Chair. There have also been complaints from the Opposition that ministers keep away without answering questions themselves.
On top of MPs salaries and perks, they are paid an attendance allowance while some categories of state employees are striking in protest against the non-payment of their salary arrears for years. Workers have to face pay cuts and other forms of punitive action for absenteeism, but MPs have no such problem!
The education Ministry has, in a bid to deal with truancy among the GCE A/L students, imposed a rule requiring them to attend school on a specified number of days if they are to be allowed to sit the university entrance examination. Why students play truant is understandable in that they learn very little in government schools and rely on private tuition to prepare for that vital examination. The need for a similar measure to ensure that parliamentarians maintained at a massive cost to the public purse attend Parliament cannot be overemphasised. It looks as if there were also a need for a roll-call in the House!
It is reported that when a vote was taken on the Ocean University of Sri Lanka Bill recently there were only 25 MPs out of 225 present in the House and the Bill was passed with 24 ayes. If Parliament could make do with such a small number of MPs, then there is no reason why the country should be burdened with so many lawmakers and ministers.
Opposition parliamentarians conduct much-advertised inspection tours purportedly to find out the shortcomings of public institutions and their government counterparts also have the habit of tearing into state employees at every turn. Shouldn’t these politicians put their House in order before finding fault with others?
What’s this world coming to when MPs are not present in the House and parliament workers have to go in search of them whenever the quorum bell is rung? It is high time party leaders rose from their slumber, took notice of this sorry state of affairs which is sure to cause further erosion of public confidence in the national legislature and took remedial action. Poor parliamentary attendances is a sad reflection on them.
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Last Updated Aug 31 2014 | 09:15 pm