There has been much opposition to the executive president’s legal immunity. But MPs enjoy impunity as regards serious offences committed inside Parliament. They seem to believe that they can get away with blatant violations of the law in the House, where they apparently think the writ of the state does not run. It may be this mistaken belief that has led them to behave like Neanderthals and even assault police personnel who are called in during brawls in the Chamber.
The situation has gone out of hand, so much so that some MPs have apparently realised the need to bring the lawbreakers in the garb of lawmakers to justice. A group of UNP MPs, on Tuesday, lodged a complaint with the Welikada police against some of their UPFA counterparts, who had thrown water mixed with chilli powder at them, in Parliament, last Friday. The UPFA MPs are calling for action against two of their rivals who brandished knives in the House the previous day.
The MPs of both sides of the House seem to have cottoned on to the mutually destructive nature of the situation. One is reminded of Thomas Hobbes, who describing the natural state of mankind, said human life outside the society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’ Hobbes came under criticism for his low opinion of humans, who, he said, were basically selfish, driven by fear of death and the hope of personal gain. One may not agree with Hobbes on his view as regards the ordinary humans, but there could be no better description than this of politicians.
Hobbes et al tell us that humans finally got together and made some compromises in a bid to bring order out of chaos in the form of what has come to be known as a social contract, for their own sake. Something similar is apparently happening in Parliament, where how things have got this bad beggars belief.
The rot set in a long time ago, but MPs have jealously guarded their privileges, all these years, without calling in the police to deal with lawbreakers in the House. But, there have been instances where they collectively used sledgehammers to crack nuts in dealing with outsiders over minor breaches of their privileges.
We recall an incident where the clip of a ballpoint pen fell into the Chamber from the press gallery, about 25 years ago. The MPs and the parliamentary staff reacted as if a grenade had been lobbed; the journalist concerned was severely warned. In another incident, a senior scribe who was not familiar with the warren of rooms and passages in the parliamentary building took the wrong turn and got into an elevator reserved for MPs. A prominent government figure called for his arrest though he was wearing a press pass, and it was obvious that he had made a mistake. Sanity prevailed and he was released. That politician is now in the Opposition, championing media freedom!
Today, the MPs tell us that outsiders threw projectiles at them, from the public gallery, during a stormy parliamentary sessions last week!
Government and Opposition rankers have elected to play the blame game as regards the sorry state of affairs in Parliament. The UPFA is making a hue and cry about the knife-wielding MPs while being silent on the chilli water throwing incident. The UNP is crying blue murder about being attacked with chilli water but has turned a blind eye to two of its MPs running around with knives in the Chamber. It is, however, heartening that they have decided to allow the police to conduct investigations into those incidents. These MPs ought to realise that they have to submit themselves to the rule of law; they are likely to be stabbed or beaten to death inside Parliament unless the situation is brought under control posthaste.
A video footage of the recent incidents in Parliament is available and those who carried out attacks and damaged public property can be arrested.
Party leaders must not be selective in calling for action against the offenders who went berserk in the House. They ought to heed Hobbes’ words of wisdom and act accordingly if disaster is to be averted.