The recent incident where a Parliamentarian was hospitalized following a brawl within the Parliament premises has once again brought in the importance of the code of conduct for MPs. Though this was not the first time that such an incident has taken place within the Parliament, many politicians feel that the dignity and decorum of the House has been affected due to such behaviour.

Nation spoke to a few prominent politicians and officials to get their views on the incident and on what needs to be done to avoid similar incidents in future.

MPs were provoked – Chamal Rajapaksa
Incumbent Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s predecessor Chamal Rajapaksa whilst highlighting that the Speaker should maintain a firm hand concerning the manner in which the proceedings are conducted, added that the Minister in question who made a statement which led to the incident, should not have antagonized the Members of the Opposition.
When queried as to whether there was definite provocation on the part of the MP who made the said statement, Rajapaksa observed that he could not say for certain as he was not present at the time.

Responding to the question as to whether a code of ethics and conduct was essential at this particular juncture, he added that while ethics including a code of ethics was there at present, the issue was that certain Members could not control themselves.

“These incidents have taken place earlier too. This is not so serious. At present, the Speaker has appointed a committee to look into the matter. The Committee will make recommendations. The Speaker, can then take action including suspending the Members involved and responsible, from attending in and participating in sittings and sessions temporarily. The Speaker should definitely have a firm hand as otherwise he cannot maintain the discipline. He should take stern action. Let us see what action he is going to take,” he remarked.

Parliament lost its decorum – Tissa Vitharana
Leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Prof. Tissa Vitharana said the Parliament had lost its decorum due to the behavior of Ministers and Parliamentarians.

Speaking to Nation, Vitharana pointed out that the recent incident where an MP was hospitalized was uncalled for and alleged that the Speaker had acted in a biased manner.
“I have immense respect for the Speaker. However, in this instant, the way he managed the situation leaves much more to be desired,” he said.

He also pointed out the importance of parliamentarians to act with decorum. “This is a place where the representatives of people exercise the sovereignty of the country on behalf of the people. Any matter should be argued and sorted. A little humour thrown in here and there would not do any harm. But, you should not make a mockery of the Parliament,” he added.

I am non-attached to the current Parliament – Mervyn
Former Minister Mervyn Silva said that he was looking at the present situation in Parliament with a sense of equanimity, non-attachment and even-mindedness.
Speaking to Nation, Silva pointed out that he was no more in Parliament and therefore could not comment on the issue.

“I am not in the Parliament anymore, thus I cannot comment about this. I did not contest and lose. I was simply not given nomination,” he explained.

Electoral reforms a must – Rajiva
Former MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha said that unless and until the Government seriously commits to its promise of electoral reforms, which would allow for a political party to have a better screening process of candidates, there would be substandard MPs behaving in such a ridiculous fashion.

There must be much clearer Standing Orders of Parliament to address incidents like this latest one affecting the decorum and discipline in Parliament, he added.

The Secretary General of Parliament should train MPs as to what their duties are instead of training Parliamentarians on what their privileges are, he noted, adding that in the absence of such a process being put in place, the MPs undergo no process of being introduced to a state of being civilized and instead become mere ‘lobby fodder’.

“The stuff of the Parliament is debates, discussions and analysis. Now MPs react. If one side of the Parliament goes to the Well of the House and demonstrates, the other side should be mindful of this,” he said.

“Thorough reforms are essential. No MP reads Acts which the legislature is asked to amend. They just merely raise their hands. Amending Acts is a thing of the past. Nowadays, entire new Acts are produced in other countries when amending an Act. MPs can then read the Act in one document,” he pointed out.

No Speakers have taken serious action for past incidents
A former Secretary General of Parliament, who spoke to Nation on the condition of anonymity said no Speakers he had served under, had taken serious action against incidents within the Parliament premises, and to avoid them in future.

“This is why the standards have deteriorated to this extent today,” he added. He pointed out that only the Speaker had the power to maintain discipline and therefore only he and nobody else can solve this matter. “The will on the part of the Speaker should also be present,” he added.