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Launch of Gaalumuwadorin Diyawannavate

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What went on behind closed doors of contemporary political events  

 

Nihal Seneviratne as Clerk and Secretary-General to Parliament at Galle Face and Diyawanna Oya, served six Prime Ministers, seven Speakers and about 2000-3000 Members of Parliament, while the country went through two insurgencies and a civil war.   

But his memoirs, A Clerk Reminisces, is not merely a record of his thirty-three years’ service to the 
supreme legislature.   
Having had a ringside view of politics - what went on behind closed doors and the corridors of power, he unfolds inside stories that took place behind political events of contemporary politics – the kind of stories historians will not record and which makes the book 
very readable.  


The chapters include the Impact of the bomb explosion in Parliament, The failed Impeachment on President Premadasa, The Defeat of the Press Bill by one vote, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s dignified conduct and the wit and the banter that take us back to a bygone era of Lankan politics.  
Last week, its Sinhala translation “Gaalumuvadorin Diyawannawata” was launched with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya as Chief Guest when a request was made by Guest Speaker DEW Gunasekera to bring out a Tamil translation of the book as well. With the book being a reflection of the decent political past in contrast to the present degeneration, it was suggested that copies be made in the three languages and distributed to all 225 Parliamentarians.   


Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his Address, said that technologically, the Parliament today has advanced to the foremost ranks. What happens in it can be viewed from any part of the world. In fact, it is a model as a well-equipped Parliament. But, he would instead, prefer decency and good manners among Members, decorum and maintenance of standards.  
Members of Parliament he said, are addressed as Honourable MPs. But, they should conduct themselves in a way they deserve the prefix. With the use of offensive words and outrageous behaviour, Parliament he said, has lost its hallowed position. Democracy, as a result, is in peril.  
He said it is the responsibility of Party leaders to pull up such miscreants. As Speaker, he is able only to suspend an MP for a week and that is not an effective solution.  
Referring to the Dark Day of Parliament he said the scene was watched by people the world over. He, however, did what the majority wished as a democracy needed to be protected for the future generation.
Guest Speaker DEW Gunasekere, Leader of the Communist Party, revealed the man behind the historic decision made by the then Speaker Anura Bandaranaike on the Supremacy of the Parliament over the Judiciary.   

 

"His memoirs, A Clerk Reminisces, is not merely a record of his thirty-three years’ service to the supreme legislature."


He said Seneviratne had always been a close friend of Bandaranaike and as a Senior Officer, his advice had been often sought. Seneviratne was on holiday in Malaysia with his family when the Supreme Court had rejected a decision made by the Speaker when Bandaranaike called Seneviratne and asked him to cut short his holiday and return.  
Back home, Seneviratne prepared the Draft on the Supremacy of the Parliament over Judiciary and Bandaranaike upheld the historic decision.  
Gunasekere asked: Do we have government officials of that calibre anymore? Who is to be blamed for the dearth – a serious question that needs to be addressed.  Gunasekere also recalled his maiden speech in Parliament. There was continual heckling from the government ranks which had about 200 MPs. Gunasekere was one of the nine Members in the Opposition. As he had worked at the Inland Revenue Department, he spoke on a Bill on Tax under the title “Tax Evasion and Excess Taxation” when 
heckling commenced.  


And Gunasekere, looking at the hecklers seated in the front row before him, called them “badhu horu” (tax thieves) when Speaker E.L. Senanayake cut him short by objecting to the Ministers being called thieves. He said they represented people.  
On being seated, he heard somebody from behind bending and whispering “fight back. Don’t give in.” He did not know Seneviratne at the time.  
And during his second speech, that’s what he did. Anura Bandaranaike spoke first during the winding up of the Budget and he asked Gunasekere to wind up when he told the front benchers not to obstruct him. He said he has their tax files and said he would use his Parliamentary privileges and prove that all of them were “badhu horu.” Following his address, Deputy Speaker met him and apologized on behalf of the Speaker for objecting to his previous address. Gunasekere thereafter, says E.L became one of his 
best friends.  


Gunasekere agrees with Seneviratne that the most admired politician is Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Even though her entry to Parliament was through the kitchen, her reactions were admirable when bribery charges were brought against her and Civic Right was removed.  
Seneviratne’s batchmate and hall-mate Dr P. G. Punchihewa reminisced about their days on the campus.  

 

Pix by Gayan Amarasekara

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