Large ab­sen­teeism, JVP's 'House truths' ring loud at cer­e­mony

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Chan­dani Kirinde

It was a solemn oc­ca­sion when Par­lia­ment met on Tues­day to com­mem­o­rate the 70th an­niver­sary of its 1st sit­ting as an in­de­pen­dent Leg­is­la­ture, but the ab­sence of a large num­ber of MPs damp­ened the at­mos­phere.

Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe moved the Mo­tion com­mem­o­rat­ing the 70th an­niver­sary, in which it was noted that the Par­lia­ment of Sri Lanka is the old­est Par­lia­ment in the Asia re­gion, elected by uni­ver­sal adult fran­chise, with an un­bro­ken record of demo­cratic gov­er­nance.” Leader of the Op­po­si­tion R. Sam­pan­than sec­onded the Mo­tion.

Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena, first to speak on the oc­ca­sion, said the pow­ers of Par­lia­ment have been strength­ened since the present Govt came to power, with the re­duc­tion in the pow­ers vested with the Ex­ec­u­tive.

“Dur­ing the past 70 years we have had many new ex­pe­ri­ences. The les­sons learnt from them will help en­sure that the rights of the peo­ple and democ­racy in the coun­try are safe­guarded. It is the duty of all to strengthen democ­racy and law and or­der in the coun­try,” the said.

On hand to wit­ness the his­toric oc­ca­sion were the Speak­ers of the Par­lia­ment of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion ( SAARC) coun­tries, who were in the coun­try to par­tic­i­pate in the 8th Con­fer­ence of the As­so­ci­a­tion of SAARC Speak­ers and Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

The Pres­i­dent said their pres­ence was a great hon­our to Sri Lanka.

“To­day we are cel­e­brat­ing the 70th an­niver­sary of this assem­bly. We have not only safe­guarded Par­lia­men­tary democ­racy by shift­ing power back to the Leg­is­la­ture, but also ended an era which lim­ited the rights of the peo­ple and weak­ened Par­lia­ment,” he said.

Leader of the Op­po­si­tion and Tamil Na­tional Al­liance ( TNA) MP R. Sam­pan­than in his speech re­called the first meet­ing of Sri Lanka’s in­de­pend- ent Par­lia­ment, which was on Oct. 14, 1947, at In­de­pen­dence Square in Colombo, when the Duke of Glouces­ter, act­ing on be­half of the King and the Govt of the United King­dom, the last of the Colo­nial Rulers, granted Sri Lanka, then known as Cey­lon, her in­de­pen­dence.

“I re­call as a boy, be­ing present at In­de­pen­dence Square when Sri Lanka was granted her in­de­pen­dence and watch­ing the event with great pride. Our first Prime Min­is­ter Hon D. S . Se­nanayake re­ceived that in­stru­ment of in­de­pen­dence on be­half of the Peo­ple of Sri Lanka,” he said.

The TNA Leader said the coun­try has pre­served demo­cratic gov­er­nance through elec­toral pro­cesses, though one must ad­mit, not com­pletely with­out blem­ish. “The truth must be ac­knowl­edged that the elec­toral process alone can­not en­sure demo­cratic gov­er­nance. Elec­toral pro­cesses by them­selves quite of­ten serve to re­tain ma­jori­tar­ian. Recog­ni­tion and re­spect for plu­ral­ism are fun­da­men­tal to the achieve­ment of gen­uine democ­racy,” he added.

Chief Op­po­si­tion Whip and JVP MP Anura Ku­mara Dis­sanayake was cyn­i­cal about the claims that Par­lia­men­tary democ­racy had served the coun­try well. "If the walls of this Cham­ber could speak, it will be clear to all that, this so called "Tem­ple of Democ­racy" has been ma­nip­u­lated to serve the in­ter­ests of those in power. The rep­u­ta­tion of Par­lia­ment it­self has been sul­lied due to th­ese ac­tions,” he said.

Other party lead­ers too spoke on the oc­ca­sion, while Speaker Karu Jaya­suriya de­liv­ered the Vote of Thanks.

The old­est Par­lia­ment in Asia marked 70 years

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