CPA conference – ideal time to showcase Sri Lanka
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa hails from a well-known political family of
Giruwa and Magam Pattu in south Sri Lanka. He is the eldest son of
prominent politician and former Agriculture and Lands Minister D.A.
In a 25 years or more political career, he has gained a reputation
among the Government an Opposition ranks as a politician who is
committed to maintain parliamentary tradition and respect views
expressed by MPs. His election on April 22, 2010 as the ninth Speaker of
Parliament after the introduction of the current republicans
constitution of 1978 is another significant landmark in his political
The role played by him to uphold the dignity and decorum of
Parliament gave him the opportunity to be elected President of the
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) at its 57th session held in
London recently. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, he said he
does not like to refer to it as a personal achievement. He said it was a
recognition given to the Speaker.
The selection of Sri Lanka as the forum to hold the next CPA
conference in 2012 is another significant victory. The Speaker said this
event should be organised with the joint participation of all
Parliamentarians. The Speaker is confident that all Members of
Parliament will make a joint effort to make this event a success.
He said Parliamentarians and delegates of 53 Commonwealth countries
who will come to Sri Lanka to attend the CPA conference would be able to
travel to all parts of the country and get first hand information about
the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka.
The CPA conference is an unique opportunity for Sri Lanka to promote
its image among Commonwealth countries. Our intention is to conduct a
successful CPA conference in Sri Lanka in collaboration with all
Parliamentarians”, he said.
Q: How do you view your new appointment as President of the
A: This is a significant opportunity gained by the Sri Lanka
at this juncture. I see this as a unique opportunity given to the
Speaker from Commonwealth countries which also adopt Parliamentary
traditions similar to us. I don’t like to interpret this is as a
personal achievement. It is a recognition given to the Speaker. But I
was fortunate to be the Speaker at this point of time. I think the
activities in Parliament should be conducted in a transparent manner.
Speakers, parliamentarians and delegates of 53 Commonwealth countries
will come to Sri Lanka to participate in the CPA conference which will
be held at the BMICH from September 7 to 15 next year.
The CPA conference would give them an opportunity to gain an
understanding about Sri Lanka. They would also get the opportunity to
visit all parts of the country, including the North and the East due to
the steps taken by the Government to establish peace.
This would provide them the opportunity to get first hand information
about the prevailing situation in the country and also to do away with
various misconceptions created among them on Sri Lanka.
Parliamentarians of these 53 Commonwealth countries will also be able
to view the natural beauty of our country.
The opportunity to host the CPA conference in Sri Lanka would pave
the way for us to act in a mutual understanding with Commonwealth
countries in socio-economic and political fields.
Q: Is this an indication of acceptance of the high level of
parliamentary system and dignity and decorum of the House?
A: Sri Lanka has been member of the CPA for several years. The
appointment of the Sri Lankan Speaker as President of the CPA is an
indication that there is democracy in Sri Lanka similar to other
As highlighted by certain sections, if there is no democracy or if
the country is heading towards dictatorship, Commonwealth countries
would have opposed the appointment. Therefore the CPA countries have not
shown any objection to host the next CPA conference in Sri Lanka.
Q: What arrangements are being made to hold the CPA
conference? What kind of benefits could Sri Lanka gain from this?
A: The CPA conference will bring many benefits to our country.
The visit made to Sri Lanka by parliamentarians and other delegates of
53 Commonwealth countries would help promote the image of our country.
The CPA conference will be a good experience for all politicians who
represent Parliament, Provincial Councils and other Local Government
Bodies as they would be able to view this event and participate in it.
This event would help create the feeling among politicians that our
Parliament maintains a close relationship with Parliaments of all
Therefore this would enable a solid foundation for politicians to
improve their political career.
We have already appointed several committees to make initial
arrangements to conduct the CPA conference in Sri Lanka next year.
Several rounds of discussions were also conducted under my patronage
with officials of the External Affairs Ministry.
The Tourist Board and other State institutions in this regard.
The CPA office in Colombo is also making initial arrangements
regarding this event. I am chairing the advisory panel while the
organising committee and all other committees are functioning under the
patronage of Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody.
We will also discuss with party leaders and seek their views to make
this event a success.
We hope to give certain responsibilities to all members who represent
The Director of the BMICH was briefed about the workings at the 57th
session of the CPA conference held in London recently.
At present, everybody has shown a keen interest to organise this
We have the experience of conducting several international
conferences in Sri Lanka such as the Non-Alligned Summit, even with the
lack of adequate technology and other facilities.
Therefore, we have competent people who have the experience of
conducting international conferences in Sri Lanka. Our intention is to
conduct a successful CPA conference in Sri Lanka.
Q:How would you ensure the unity of parliamentarians in the
House to make the CPA meeting a success?
A: The unity of all parliamentarians is vital to make this
event a success. That unity was demonstrated on Tuesday when Government
and Opposition members congratulated me on my appointment as President
of the CPA. The CPA conference is not an event which belongs to a single
This has to be organised by Parliament itself I am confident that all
parliamentarians irrespective of politics will extend their cooperation
to make this event a success.
Q:Can you be satisfied with the contribution made by young
A: There is lack of contribution by young MPs to the
parliamentary process. We have to adopt new strategies to guide them to
properly fulfill their responsibility on behalf of the country. At
present, we have focused our attention on this.
At present the participation of young MPs in Parliament proceedings
is not at satisfactory level.
They should be encouraged to attend Parliament specially during oral
New parliamentarians can get a proper understanding about the
development taking place in various sectors of the country due to the
questions being raised and replies given to those questions.
These new MPs also have the opportunity of raising questions in the
House on various development processes taking place in the country and
make their contribution towards those activities. In addition we have to
think of a new program which would create an interest among young MPs on
the parliamentary system.
Q:There are allegations that dignity and decorum of the House
has come down, How will you rectify this situation?
A: On the one hand, the Chief Government Whip and Chief
Opposition Whip should always educate members to act and speak in
Parliament in a manner safeguarding the dignity and decorum of the
Otherwise as the Speaker, I have to take stern action regarding the
conduct of some MPs inside the chamber .
But at present there is a improvement on the part of parliamentarians
to maintain the dignity and decorum of the House. If parliamentarians
study the Standing Orders of Parliament, then they will know how to
behave in Parliament.
Those who don’t study them will not know how to behave in Parliament.
Those who misbehave in Parliament show their lack of understanding of
the parliamentary system and its traditions.
People judge Parliamentarians according to the manner they behave in
Parliament. Debates and other incidents that take place in Parliament
are telecast by television channels daily, with the visuals of those who
are watching them from the Public Gallery.
Therefore, if any politician resorts to unruly behaviour, it will
lead to his political career being at stake. Parliamentarians should be
concerned about their behaviour in Parliament.
That is why I have proposed to start a Parliament television channel.
At present we are studying the possibility and hope to send a team to
study the Lok Sabha television channel telecast in India.
I think the introduction of this Parliament television channel will
help to rectify this situation as the people will always want to watch
Even today, most of our people watch the few short news clips
telecast via television channels on the incidents that happen in
Therefore, we have to realise that most of the people have their eyes
on us. If we have a Parliament television channel, people will watch it
with more attention, specially the manner in which Parliamentarians
behave and speak in Parliament. It will help the people to select what
is correct? and not who is correct? We should improve the quality of
parliamentary traditions with such moves.
Q:President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to initiate a
Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to resolve the grievances of the
people in the North and the East. Are you confident it will come out
with a solution to the problem?
A: It is not suitable to drag this problem. Parliament is
represented by major political parties. Those who represent Parliament
have the responsibility to address this issue.
The PSC should contain ideas of all political parties represented in
Parliament as well as those who don’t represent the Parliament. This
select committee should be implemented by the Government with the
agreement of everybody. Then the entire country will be compelled to
accept it as it reflects the views of the majority. This process should
be done without delay and justice should be meted out to everybody. The
self respect of the people should be safeguarded no matter in what part
of the country they live. If we can provide a solution in a manner to
suit the self respect of the people, problems will not arise.
Q:Why should all political parties get together to solve this
A: I think the Government may think that it would definitely
be able to implement proposals made by a PSC, as it is represented all
political parties in Parliament.
Q:The elections held in the North after a lapse of 30 years is
proof that there is democracy in the country because the TNA won most of
Local Bodies in the North. Does not this mean that democracy is still
vibrant in the country?
A: The people in the North have cast their vote. Despite the
fact who won the election, one of the fundamental rights of the people
in the North to exercise their franchise which had been denied for them
in the past, has been given back. This democratic system and the
electoral system will impress the youth in the North and finally they
will realise the importance of it. When they get the opportunity and
power to work in their respective areas, the areas in the North will
also turn to normalcy that prevailed in the past, before the
commencement of LTTE terrorist activities.
Q:The Government once again secured a landslide victory at the
recently concluded Local Government polls. What is your opinion?
A: I see the majority of the people expect to witness a
forward moving economic growth with the development of infrastructure
facilities in their areas, while opening new income generating avenues
for them. The people have expressed their desire at this Local
Government Election as well by placing their confidence that the
Government will fulfill this task.
Q:Do you think that a vibrant Opposition is essential for
A: I think there is a good Opposition in the country and they
have also a good vote base. The tendency is that if the requirements of
the people are fulfilled as they expect, they are willing to move
forward with that idea. Just because the Government achieved a landslide
victory, we can’t say that it is entirely because of the fault of the
If their needs and expectations are fulfilled by the Government in
power,the people will always extend their support to that Government.
Q:There are mega development projects implemented in the
South. What is its impact on the South as well as the other parts of the
A: As a whole the development has taken place in every part of
the country. It has not been confined only to the North, East or South.
This has become one of the key reasons for the government to achieve
victory at every election, as the people witness the development that
has taken place throughout the country.
If infrastructure facilities such as roads, electricity and water are
given, the people will tend to place their confidence on the Government.
The Government has also launched a mega development drive in the
North to rebuild infrastructure facilities destroyed due to terrorist
activities. For example the Hambantota Port is situated in close
proximity to the Silk Route and international sea route, between the
East and the West. This location where the Hambantota Port is situated
is a ‘dowry’ given to us by nature.
The Hambantota Port will ensure rapid development in that area. In
addition, the Oluvil Port which is under construction between Kalmunai
and Trincomalee would open new avenues for development in those areas.
The Government has also commenced construction work on the
These are good indications that development is taking place
everywhere in the country.
It will take some time to get the benefits of these mega development
projects and create new income avenues for the people. When development
is taking place at apace people will naturally be enthusiastic about
this and will be in favour of the government.