I move now to an area which was new to me when I entered Parliament, but which I learned about swiftly so that in time the Chairman of the Committee relied on me heavily. This was the Committee on Public Enterprises, which I transformed into a more efficient and thoroughgoing institution as I describe here.

Sadly of course everything changed when I was no longer in Parliament. I could not entrench the reforms for the then Prime Minister blocked our efforts to change Standing Orders to give Committees more teeth.

Yesterday’s post was numbered wrong for I have included Sunday’s also in this series though it was from an article about Chanaka Amaratunga, written in 2014 after these articles, which appeared in a 2012 book entitled ‘Asian Liberal Perspective’.

The pictures are of DEW Gunasekara and Eran Wickremaratne, my two most committed and able colleagues on COPE.

Liberal Perspectives on Accountabiity and Parliamentary Governance

The First Report of the Committee on Public Enterprises of the Seventh Parliament has drawn much attention of a favourable sort. The speed with which the Report was issued, and the number of institutions which it covers, comprehensively and incisively, was seen as unusual, and a possible precursor to a better exercise of Parliamentary powers of oversight than we had seen in the recent past.

The principal credit for this must go to the Chairman, the Hon DEW Gunasekara, who chaired the Committee with inclusive dedication. But I think, as indicated by his suggestion that I be asked to represent him at this discussion, that he would also highlight the role of Liberal principles which I was able to bring to bear on the work and the attitudes of the Committee.

The first problem we resolved was that of having to deal with a vast number of institutions, only a few of which had been covered each year in the past. The solution was obvious, and I could not understand, when I suggested that we divide into sub-committees, why no one seemed to have thought of it previously, when the work of the Committee had expanded. Perhaps the explanation lay in the objection of one of those members who had specialized in criticism in the past, that it was necessary for the Committee to function as a whole.

But my response, that the sub-committees could report back to the main Committee if warranted, was upheld by the Chairman, and he appointed three excellent chairs for the Sub-Committees, who competed against each other as it were to ensure that they fulfilled their responsibilities.

The principle, which would also help immeasurably in solving problems with regard to ethnicity, may be termed that of subsidiarity, which in this instance means breaking up big problems into smaller ones, and then dealing with them systematically.

A second principle is that of inclusivity, working to promote consensual approaches rather than confrontation. In this regard I must pay tribute to the principle participant in COPE from the Opposition, the Hon Eran Wickramaratne, perhaps the most outstanding example of how the National List should be used to ensure knowledge and intelligence in Parliament. He brings to bear outstanding knowledge of financial matters and principles of accountability with a sympathetic understanding of problems that need to be overcome. He is also in constant attendance, and prepared to concentrate on the whole report placed before us by the Auditor General and the Treasury for consideration, instead of merely indulging in flashes of corrosive criticism.