By Edward Gunawardena
The recent episode of disgraceful behaviour by a few members of Parliament made me wonder why these villains of the peace are referred to as ‘Honourable’ members. As a matter of fact I also began to wonder why only a few enjoy the honourifix ‘Honourable’ when the majority of the citizens are law abiding people leading honourable lives.
A rustic coconut plucker making an honest living and enjoying good neighbourly relations is a far more honourable than state paid, elected representatives of the people who use obscene language and exchange blows within parliament particularly in the solemn presence of the President and the full gaze of dignitaries in the galleries and Television cameras.
I see no reason why ordinary good citizens interacting with politicians at for example ceremonial occasions should be slighted or even insulted by only the politicians being referred to as ‘Honourable’. This archaic practice has to be done away with forthwith. If there is a legal impediment it is paramount that such law be repealed.
How and when did this nonsensical practice commence? As far as I am aware this has obscure beginnings dating back to British Colonial times. The use of honourifixes before titular rank is an ancient British tradition dating back to the feudal era of British history.
All ministers including the Prime Minister the Speaker and members of Parliament are addressed as ‘Honourable’. Members of the Privy Council of Britain are addressed as ‘Right Honourable’. D.S. Senanayake and Sir John Kotalawala when made members of the Privy Council were addressed as Right Honourable. The Sinhala term for ‘Honourable’ is ‘Garu’. Athi Garu appears to be the Sinhala version of Right Honourable. Today the President of Sri Lanka is addressed Athi Garu in Sinhala and Your Excellency in English! J.R. Jayewardene, the first executive President as well as William Gopallawa the last Governor General were addressed as ‘Uthumanani’ in Sinhala and ‘Your Excellency in English!
I really do not know whether there exists a law in Sri Lanka compelling people to address certain select individuals as ‘Honourable’. Or is it that we are still faithfully following a British tradition
In a way we should be happy that the real significance of the term ‘Honourable’ has got diluted. Today, at public meetings, in posters and banners advertising political tamashas and sometimes even in leading newspapers petty local government political pups and even rogues and vagabonds are referred to as ‘Honourable’.
Comments - 1
BADA-UDA-GEMMBA Monday, 14 May 2012 08:10 PM
There are honorable people. Also there are ROGUES,CROOKS,PERVERTS AND CRIMINALS with this tag even here in the UK!!!! It is time to HONOUR-RE-FIX this honourifix prefix and HONOUR and RESPECT only those that deserve tihs "prefix". The others can be called whatever is suitable.!!!!!
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