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Power Play of Parliamentary Politics


Lucien Rajakarunanayake

The new parliament has begun to function with the formal policy statement by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were no armed forces parading or horse-ride escorts for the President, which took some of the colour of the traditional ceremony. Maybe such decorum was considered too costly in this hugely strained economic situation.

One MP from Kotte came to parliament by boat on the Diyawanna Lake, with promises of the new government taking action to have a complete waterway transport system to overcome traffic jams and road blocks in the Colombo region. Sailing should soon be a daily delight to our people, if that becomes real.

Amidst all the celebratory MPs in the House, there was one large missing image. It was the elephant, pushed out of the House for the first time since 1947, when Mr. D. S. Senanayake led the first government. It was the stunning shame suffered by the UNP led by Ranil Wickremesinghe; and also contributed to by the SJB team led by Sajith Premadasa, whose louder call was to capture Sri Kotha and not a majority in parliament. There is a bigger worry whether this absence of the elephant in parliament, is a pointer to the larger national issue of the crisis faced by the elephants in our jungles. Can any government that is elected to serve the people, do much to save the elephants? The current thinking on democracy is people centred and not jumbo focused! Will we be soon coming to a political reality of letting the elephants be part of our 2,500 plus history? Are we to begin exporting them to strengthen the economy and have more jungle land for people? Can a revived UNP and the SJB-led Opposition launch a proper Elephant Save politics, with sufficient influence on Pohottuva Power?

Although it didn’t happen in parliament, one new MP has made a huge contribution to new and necessary thinking on the cost of MPs to the people. The Colombo District SLPP member Madura Withanage, former Kotte Mayor too, has announced his rejection of the Duty Free vehicle permit he is entitled to, under the costly system of buttress for MPs. Are there any more MPs, who made huge promises of serving the people once elected, ready to make such a move and save many millions of foreign exchange for the country? Let’s ignore the old ranks among MPs, many of who are really old, 70 plus,plus, who must have planned the profit from Duty Free vehicle sale as part of an MP’s yield. How many of the new members elected in this political whirlwind are ready to make such a sacrifice for the people? Will those working on the new Pohottuva Constitution think of taking Duty Free vehicles out of an MP’s platter of profit?

Will the Opposition MPs of the SJB think of taking a no Duty Free vehicle permit as a part of service to the people, which they promised with the telephone against the elephant? Or, will the public have to expect President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make this part of his wider plans for reviving the economy, now in the doldurms?

What will the new parliament do about Power? We know that everyone there, elected by the people, and nominated by one’s party, will not want to curb their power by any means. We are talking of the Power that keeps the lights on, factories working, hospitals functioning, water being distributed….the Power that kept us in darkness for many hours, and has warned us of many more such disasters in the coming months. Will the new parliament take quick action, with necessary committees – even a Select Committee – to probe the continuing crisis in Power Production and Distribution in the country?

The Power Play has been going on for far too long, with engineers and manipulators dominating the control of this necessary service to the people. Norochcholai or Ketawalamulla are the profitable playgrounds of these forces, more concerned about the profits from power purchase than the well-planned, economically effective and environmentally suitable supply of power to the people.

Will this new parliament think more about the sources of power in this country from water, wind and other sources, than keep on thinking of coal power generation that is now being abandoned by many progressive countries. Will this country be helped to move away from the thinkers who believe more in importing power than a well-planned local production. Will a parliament with a two-thirds plus majority in political and government power continue to give in to the crooked manipulators of power, who will keep the country and people the victims of Purchase Power Exploiters? Power is the stuff of Parliament. It must be used to control and put down the Power Exploiters, and not used to further strengthen these forces ranged against the people. This is what the power politics of today must be used for – service to the people, not profit to the hooked manipulators of power supply.

This is certainly an interesting parliament with a younger input having to face the dominance of the aged. The Cabinet has three members over 70 years, and closer to 80, too. There is a State Minister who is 81 plus, and one new MP who is 80 plus. The over 60 range in the House certainly has sway in the numerical divide. Is Sri Lanka to be known the world over as the Land of Aged Power? The Rajapaksa Rajavasala – the Castle of the Rulers – has an aged speciality, but with new pathways to the young, but only from the Rajavansa Lineage.

There are so many things the new parliament will have to deal with. Among these are the enormous facilities and benefits that MPs have in income, the number of vehicles that each minister can have, the family members that can be hired for service to oneself…the narrative goes on. Can the new parliament, with such a huge majority government, and also a substantial opposition, move to curb the powers, profits and other benefits and advantages to its members, and think more of real benefits to the people.

Let’s awat the Draft of the new Constitution – minus 19A, with a 20A and priority given to the concept of one country, and one law for all people. Is it Unity in Diversity or the Powerplay of Politics?

Courtesy:The Island