18th Amendment, Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Exclusive video: Parliamentary debate and objections to 18th Amendment

Groundviews was able to procure exclusive video with highlights from the parliamentary debates on the 18th Amendment Bill. This video was recorded on 7th September 2010.

  • This one hour video begins with the point of order raised by TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, the synopsis of which can be read here. Inter alia, a salient point made by the MP is that this significant Bill was not at the time of the debate gazetted or even tabled in Parliament – the MP even expresses his doubt as to whether the Speaker himself has a copy of the Bill. The fact is that the President did not even consider it important to have the proposed bill available to members of parliament in what were, ironically, debates on its key provisions and implications. Clearly, this was not a problem for MPs with the government. So much for the Executive being accountable to Parliament, and a Parliament able and willing to hold the Executive accountable.
  • The largely uncouth nature of the debate, if it can be even called that. The exchanges on the floor are primarily anchored to shouting personal insults and partisan diatribes. Many MPs demonstrate very little interest in or arguably, capacity for principled, intellectual engagement with the content of the 18th Amendment Bill or other issues in the order sheet. To those who questioned procedural issues related to parliamentary matters, the verbal venom was that much greater.
  • That even in the middle of chaos, there is some humour. At around 35 minutes into the video, the Leader of the Opposition in his submission against the extension of Emergency, refers to the Prime Minister’s submission and asks him to follow his own words and place freedom above party, colour and creed. Mr. Wickremesinghe goes on for around 22 minutes to critique the introduction of the 18th Amendment, even though other MPs attempt to raise a point of order that his submission is outside the debate on the extension of emergency.
  • The video ends with the suspension of debates on the floor for 10 minutes.

Readers are strongly encouraged to also see “Sound is no substitute for argument”: Exclusive video of TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran’s speech in parliament against 18th Amendment.