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Sri Lankan bishop calls for political code of conduct after parliamentary fracas

Posted on: February 5, 2018 3:41 PM
A brawl involving 50 MPs erupted in the chamber of Sri Lanka’s Parliament on 8 January. The Bishop of Colombo, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has used an Independence Message to call for a Code of Conduct for parliamentarians.
Photo Credit: Kolitha de Silva / Flickr

The Bishop of Colombo, Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has called on Sri Lanka’s politicians to adopt of a code of conduct for parliamentarians. In an Independence Message, published in The Daily FT newspaper on the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence from British rule, Bishop Dhiloraj bemoans “the emerging signs of aimless drift in the governance of this nation that have appeared in the past few months.” He says: “it is the sacred duty of all of us who love this country deeply to give heed to these warning signs, to call attention to the chaotic and open contradictions that are visible with each passing day, if we are not to stumble onto another disastrous period in the life of our nation.”

In his message, Bishop Dhiloraj referred to the 8 January brawl in the Parliamentary chamber, when 50 of Sri Lanka’s 225 MPs exchanged blows over a debate on a bond scandal, and described it as “utterly shameful and revolting conduct.” The debate on that issue is due to return to the Parliament this week. “It is no excuse to say that these kinds of incidents happen in legislatures all over the world,” he said. “They are happening all too frequently in our own.”

He said that the President Maithripala Sirisena’s 2015 election campaign included a promise of a Code of Conduct for parliamentarians. “As with several other promises, this too is still pending,” Bishop Dhiloraj said.

After citing some of the clauses of the draft code, the bishop says: “by any interpretation, our parliamentarians who have been elected by the people to serve them, paid by tax payers’ money, who enjoy many benefits that they have voted for themselves, have miserably failed to live up to any of these noble concepts.”

Bishop Dhiloraj also complained about “the visible lack of authority, coherence and unity in the government” and said that: “a government . . . is elected to govern, and not to present a picture of indecision, constant bickering and paralysis to the nation. This lack of consistency and the pulling in different directions by the leadership of the nation breeds uncertainty, and impacts harmfully on state administration as well as on overall national confidence.”

He concludes his message with a plea, calling on leaders and government “to take serious stock of the situation of the nation as we approach the beginning of the 7th decade of our independence, to put aside their arrogant, selfish and foolish behaviour, to remember the promises they made to the people three years ago for an honest corruption free administration dedicated to putting the interest of the people of this county, especially the weak, the powerless and the voiceless foremost, to be true and faithful to the teachings of their own religions.”

The Church in Ceylon’s two dioceses – Colombo and Kurunegala – are under the extra-provincial metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 2016, the Anglican Consultative Council welcomed and affirmed moves by the Church of Ceylon’s general assembly to embark on a journey towards its independence as a self-governing Anglican province.

  • Click here to read Bishop Dhiloraj’s full Independence Message.