A good amount of my life as a journalist had to do with covering Parliament. I’ve seen and heard great debates, listened to members skilled in debate, who were rich with humour, satire, ridicule and sarcasm. There were members who spoke for hours on rich content, and some who brought fun to the House within minutes of speech.
That was the tradition we had in the early years of independence, coming down from the State Council. It certainly declined in quality and content over the years, especially after JRJ’s Executive Presidency and Proportional Representation; which saw elections from districts and not electorates, and the choice of the party above the capability and quality of the person.
What happened in Parliament this week was the greatest and vilest exposure of itself in all its history.
Ranjan Ramanayake – RR – has many issues to face as a Member of Parliament. His arrival at the House from the Remand Prison was only one aspect of these issues. But what mattered much more than the allegations relating to his violations of telecommunication laws, was the devastating exposure of the parliamentary reality of today.
How many sand dealers are there, how many dealers and handlers of drugs, how many sellers of alcohol, and how many dealers in ethanol…? I’m sure he could have given a longer list, which included much more of the crooked and profitable dealings in our society that makes loud noises about a religious culture.
Of the 225 members in that House, elected by the people, and also appointed by a manipulative law, there is now a complete exposure of a warped and deformed legislature, which has little right to be a pillar in the triangle of democratic and good governance. At a meeting with the media the next day, some government MPs explained their silence as RR made his revelations said to be from phone conversations; the silence of necessity because president Gotobaya Rajapaksa wanted a House of honesty, decency and good behaviour. Their silence may satisfy themselves about such behaviour to please GR, but their record of unruly, rowdy and even criminal behaviour is made worse by what RR had to say of a majority of the 225.
RR has shown the world the reality of parliamentary democracy in what was known through history as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It is no more a pearl but a mass of the crooked and dirty stuff of society. People elected to govern a country with a great history of a Buddhist culture, is now seen as a land that is far removed from that culture, and embracing the stuff of dishonesty and criminality, hugging the dirty paths to profit, and cuddling the filth of commissions and crooked business.
It is the grime of cheating the people who elected you with the hope of good governance, and more shocking because they are in a Parliament that had a majority on the promise of ‘yahapalanaya’ or good governance. We are now at the end of that phase of disaster, and moving on to the next phase of the crooked, or even worse.
There can be very little expectations of any improvement in the next lot that is chosen to be sworn in as MPs of a democracy. Most of those already in this House of the Crooked are all key members of their parties, that have been encouraging the mud and filth of crooked governance when in government or the opposition. The party system and electoral structure gives little room for those who can properly serve society to be selected for nomination.
The situation is made worse by the prevailing power and opportunity of the SLPP – not a Podujana Peramuna as claimed, but a Pahathjana Peramuna – comes with its record of ‘yamapalana’ or demonic governance, especially after the defeat of the LTTE.
The RR exposures in Parliament have done much more than the leaders of political parties, the preachers of religions in whatever robe, and social or civil society leaders have done all these years. His refusal to accept a Rs. 100,000 increase in an MP’s allowance, and other costly benefits paid for by the people, put him a class above the 224 he has been sitting with since his election to the House. It reminds the people that we need many more like him, with or without telephone law violations, who have a much larger commitment to respecting the laws of the land and the traditions of decency in society to be chosen to this August Assembly.
With whatever flaws and faults that may be found of his alleged violations of the laws of the land, and the humiliation that may await him, RR has done a great service to the people by this staggering exposure of a dirty, shady and crooked legislature. It is for the Judiciary, with no interference from the State or Administration, to decide on his phone call performance, and any other offences he may be accused of.
Meanwhile, it is the people who must decide on the stuff and substance of the next 225 who will be embracing the profits and benefits of parliamentary service or disservice for another five years. We certainly do not need a 2/3rd majority for such decisions of democratic decency. It is the duty of every honest MP elected by the people, and appointed to the House. It looks like a long wait for the possible flowering of clean and good governance, in a land where the mud of the lotus pond is already spreading dirt on its petals.