President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political acumen as a shrewd politician was amply displayed last week with his latest appointment to Parliament through the national list.
He showed the opposition that he is equally smart when he appointed his younger brother and Senior Advisor on International Affairs, Basil Rajapaksa to Parliament to fill the void created by the demise of Non-Cabinet Minister Anwer Ismail.
The presence of Basil Rajapaksa in Parliament is singularly important for the President, given the political climate in the country. The President’s idea may be to keep all his Parliamentarians on their toes and to obtain their maximum input to Parliamentary debates and keep his side intact without allowing it to be eroded any further.
He could also engage in constant dialogue with the smaller parties and the JVP when it comes to crucial matters through his own brother.
As for the others, it would be much easier to talk directly to Basil Rajapaksa and arrive at decisions without wasting much time with other ministers who would necessarily have to go to the President and come back on crucial issues.
In other words, it is a great strength for President Rajapaksa since he knows that the younger Rajapaksa would do his best to protect his interests within the precincts of the House.
As far as the opposition is concerned, it would be a tough game for it from now on since Basil Rajapaksa is equally good at political manoeuvering. It would be a rather interesting and unusual game of ‘chess’ between the Opposition Leader and the President, who would move their pieces in different directions to checkmate each other.
Basil Rajapaksa’s entry will also change the political hierarchy in the SLFP coalition as far as Parliamentary affairs are concerned. Most of the people holding top slots in the party hierarchy would be redundant and Basil Rajapaksa would be the rallying point for most of the UPFA members in Parliament.
In short, all the big wigs in the UPFA such as the Leader of the House and the Chief Government Whip would be left with no role to play.
At the swearing in ceremony, the most conspicuous absentees were SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena and D.M. Jayaratne. Chief Opposition Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle’s presence was quiet obvious as he went to the extent of calling UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe various names. He also had an argument with Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara in his bid to name Mervyn Silva, whose behaviour in Parliament was appalling.
Silva, who had already made a mockery of himself publicly over his son’s conduct, made it an opportunity to show his allegiance to the Rajapaksas for obvious reasons. He behaved more like a hooligan than a respected Parliamentarian.
Minister Fernandopulle also became a laughing stock among the people after his conduct in Parliament was shown over various television channels. A lawyer by profession, Fernandopulle’s behaviour was at low ebb when compared with other respected Parliamentarians – a moron among the top notches in the government.
Insiders are of the opinion that he wants to curry favour with the President since he is longing to be the Prime Minister after Ratnasiri Wickremanayake or otherwise.
Fernandopulle, who was a frequent visitor to Temple Trees during Wickremesinghe’s two-year stint as Prime Minister under the Presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga, has now turned hostile towards the UNP.
For those on the outside, all in all, the House of Representatives resembled a ‘House of Horrors.’ The era in which people longed to go to Parliament to listen to the people with intellectual dispositions of the calibre of Dudley Senanayake, N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin .R de Silva, Philip Gunawardene, J.R. Jayewardene, Bernard Soysa and more recently R. Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, Samaraweera Weeravanni and Sarath Muttetuwegama is fast diminishing
The indictment is on both sides. The UNP has also failed, miserably, to behave as a responsible opposition during the past decade or so.
On this occasion too it showed its inaptness in Parliament when opposition members displayed placards which said the new MP was a ‘Commis Kaakka.’
When a member takes oaths before the Speaker for the first time, incidents such as this would not occur in a civilised society, since they are contrary to traditions and practices of great Parliamentarians in the past.
Given that the UNP showcases itself as a party which upholds Parliamentary traditions and conventions, one would not expect the UNPers to behave like morons in Parliament.
On Wednesday, it was a pathetic turn of events as far as the Sri Lankan Parliament was concerned. The Speaker was rendered helpless and had to suspend sittings when all hell broke lose among the August assembly of the people.
Parliament is a mirror that reflects the social standing of the masses, which is sliding further into a political and cultural quagmire by the day.
If the political leadership does not take serious note of the unfolding tragedy of Sri Lankan society, it is difficult to believe that Sri Lanka will remain a democratic entity for future generations to enjoy the dividends of a democratic administration.
Both the government and the opposition should take full responsibility for what is taking place in the country today and make a joint effort to firstly restore Parliamentary traditions and respect the rights of the individuals, and to then salvage the country out of the present mess it is in.
It must be said that the TNA and JVP behave in a more respectful manner in Parliament than the two major parties. Members of the TNA and JVP remained in their seats on Wednesday, watching the unfolding pandemonium.
The JVP’s thinking on the appointment of Basil Rajapaksa to Parliament is that the government is totally out of touch as far as the thinking of the people is concerned.
JVPers feel that it was foolish to bring Basil Rajapaksa to Parliament at a time when allegations are abound that the government has virtually turned politics into the family business. They also think that it is a ploy of a falling government to hang on to power.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007