BY YOHAN PERERA AND AJITH SIRIWARDANA
The Parliament is exploring the possibility of conducting virtual mee t ings of the Committees using digital facilities to meet the regulations and guidelines of social distancing if it is decided to continue further in the aftermath of COVID-19, a press release from Parliament media unit said yesterday.
A mock exercise was conducted recently by the senior management of the Parliament Secretariat with the participation of the Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake and Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary General Neil Iddawala, the statement said.
The process wishes to hold online meetings with a minimum number of participants where officials of government institutes can virtually be present at the meetings also enabling Members of Parliament who are members of committees such as Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and COPA, Government officials and the general public to take part in the Committee meetings without travelling to Parliament. The opportunity to virtually be present for meetings during non-sitting days where Parliamentarians will be able to participate in the meeting from their constituency without travelling to Parliament was also considered.
The Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake, commenting on the mock exercise conducted stated that many committee rooms are already equipped with the requisite camera facilities to live record, thus, the possibilities of conducting meetings digitally are being explored. “If social distancing regulations continues, the meetings may have to be conducted virtually and the secretariat is in the process of identifying the shortcomings and glitches in the technology,” Mr. Dasanayake said. The Secretary General of Parliament further emphasized that as the House only consists of 8 committee rooms, conducting virtual Committee meetings will be useful in terms of reducing congestion as well as saving a great deal of time and money. Accordingly, the Parliament Secretariat will continue to conduct a few more mock exercises to further enhance this process. Also other sources in Parliament said subjecting all elected MPs in the new Parliament to a PCR test is also a possibility. “ PCR tests may become a necessity as it is difficult to maintain social distancing inside the chambers,” sources said.