by Shamindra Ferdinando
One-time top official in parliament Lacille de Silva, yesterday, alleged that there was an understanding among political parties represented in Parliament not to raise the contentious issue of quorum though in the recent past the UNP had acted contrary to that consensus.
All those lawmakers in Parliament should be ashamed of their disgraceful conduct, De Silva said, alleging that political parties fiercely guarded various corrupt systems though there were differences among them on many issues.
Responding to a query by The Island, De Silva said leaders of all political parties were responsible for deterioration of parliament.
Had parliament adhered with the rule as regards the minimum number of lawmakers 20 required to be present at any given time, parliamentary sittings would have been suspended many more times, he said.
Parliament meets on about 95-100 days annually.
All political parties owed taxpayers an explanation as to why they couldn’t ensure their members participation in proceedings, De Silva said. Instead of taking punitive measures in respect of those routinely skipping parliament, the leaders and other party seniors protected their members, De Silva said.
The much touted code-of-conduct for lawmakers is nothing but a joke, an irate De Silva said.
Having joined the parliament staff way back in 1977, de Silva served as Director Administration from 2003 until his retirement in 2013. He also functioned as the Secretary to Presidential Commission on corruption and irregularities in the public sector during 2015/16 before being removed under controversial circumstances.
The former official said that a public inquiry was needed to inquire into parliament. Asked whether he found fault only with the current parliament, de Silva said ‘certainly not. Corrupt practices started a long time ago. Political parties are working closely to protect corrupt systems in place. In fact, they gradually develop such systems.’
Although the number of MPs had increased, Parliament never bothered to increase the quorum, De Silva pointed out.
Remedial measures should definitely include substantial increase in quorum, De Silva said, pointing out that Sri Lanka should emulate the Netherlands, where the quorum meant 50 plus 1.
Instead of implementing various foreign funded projects meant to improve standards, Parliament should first of all discipline its members regardless of seniority, De Silva said.
Referring to various Committees in parliament, de Silva said that the staff had to struggle to get members to participate in their sittings.
Lacille de Silva recalled the circumstances under which Parliament rented a building at a cost nearly Rs 1 bn at the beginning of the yahapalana administration though it was never used.