Calling a spade a spade is frankness; but calling it a fork is insolence. For some reason, the individuals who are voted into power by people seem to resort to the latter after they march to the House. Indiscipline of the parliamentarians both in and out of Parliament has always disgraced the voters who thought they were fit enough to represent them. Not only among the public, but also within the House, the disciplined few have on many occasions, expressed concern on the lack of discipline of their colleagues.
Hence, the move to introduce a code of ethics for the parliamentarians, as reported by a national Sinhala weekly, is answering to a timely call for action. Any administrative structure, be that of a small school in a rural area or of something as humongous as the United Nations, requires discipline to hold ground. Parliament, on the other hand, though it contains individuals of different calibre, education and professional backgrounds, their behaviour should maintain some sort of commonality at least to please the people who trusted them.
The news item revealed that the Committee report on introducing a code of ethics would be handed over to the Speaker in the coming weeks. The committee, headed by senior minister DEW Gunasekara and comprising of past speakers, parliamentary secretaries and editors of newspapers, will be looking into safeguarding parliamentary traditions and maintaining good manners and discipline.
By the looks of it, the task is a tough one to fulfil.
The House is the highest echelon of the country’s administration, where laws are changed, made and remade. Perhaps, it would not be too much to ask for, from the people’s representatives to show some respect to the authority and behave accordingly at least when they are in the House. So far, the parliamentary privileges have been serving as the inbuilt lifesaver for anyone who did not see the need to hide their fangs or censor their word. In fact, privileges are there to make sure that a parliamentarian does not waste his/her valuable time explaining his/her conduct; on the assumption that, he or she will serve better with the more time that is spared.
Yet, the freedom has failed to curb their conduct. The horror of rushing school children out while the sessions are in progress, is not alien to us; nor are the meaningless deviations and name-calling when vital issues are raised. One day, the mace was snatched away; the other day, a coffin was brought in. The House has had its fair-share of cat fights, which saw a Bhikku parliamentarian ending up on a hospital bed.
Though daily reportage of parliament has made people believe discourtesy and indiscipline are inherent characteristics of parliamentarians, one should not forget that this country had bred statesmen who not only gained respect but also respected their voters in return. Hence, if people were not farsighted enough to choose statesmen instead of politicians; at least an attempt should be taken to live up to their expectations.
Clearly, disciplining should begin from the House.