Monday, June 13, 2011

Parliamentary questions

The workings of parliament are sometimes obscure, but I think people should make the effort to try and and understand what goes on.

Last week the chief government whip refused to answer a question on the basis of national security. Why should an MP refuse to answer questions? Does parliamentary procedure allow questions to go unanswered?

Reading the Parliamentary procedure in the UK relating to questions it appears to me that an MP cannot refuse to answer. Parliamentary questions are but one way by which the Government is held to account. Accountability to its citizens is what makes a democracy a democracy so refusing to answer a question is simply 'not on'.

Even more intriguing was the question which he refused to answer. He had refused to reveal the findings of a commission set up to look into alleged irregularities committed in the procurement of arms and ammunition for the military.

As this was a commission set up by the Government to look into alleged irregularities, it seems very strange that its results cannot be made public. “The President and relevant officials will take the necessary action based on the findings of the report,” Minister Gunawardena said, which does not seem very convincing since the overriding aim seems to be to sweep things under the carpet.

This reaction seems especially odd in contrast to the conviction of Sarath Fonseka on charges of corruption in arms procurement. Sauce for the goose is apparently not sauce for the gander, so while enemies of the republic will be persecuted its friends will be protected.

There is also another question: on the quality of internal mechanisms. The Government has repeatedly boasted that the country, being a democracy, has the necessary mechanisms and processes to deal with all problems. The reaction to the findings of this commission seem to demonstrate the opposite.

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