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