Parliament should be the primary forum where the voice of the people, especially the poor and marginalised, is heard with absolute clarity, said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.
“Confidence among the people that parliament truly understands, and is able to address the needs and interests of the people, is a paramount guarantee of social peace and stability,” said the Secretary-General.
“Such confidence can only really be secured if parliamentarians – of both the majority and minority parties – can show their effectiveness in leading free and unfettered public debate; in representing the interests and concerns of their constitutents; in holding the government to account; and in scrutinising, improving and enacting legislation,” he added. The Secretary-General was speaking to delegates at the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 11 September 2012.
“The Parliament is where the heart of democracy beats. Parliaments and parliamentarians embody the culture of democracy in a country. Legitimacy is derived from the freely expressed will of the people through national parliaments, state assemblies and local councils that, in turn, serve the people by holding the executive to account and by ensuring democracy delivers for all,” said the Secretary-General.
He stressed that for stable and sustainable progress to be achieved, it is necessary for democracy, development and respect for diversity to be advanced together as they reinforce and sustain each other.
“All Commonwealth Parliaments, and all members of our family of Commonwealth organisations, must continue to strive in particular to build positively on the richness and potential of our diversity, and avoid our differences becoming a source of sterility, let alone division. Our responsibility as leaders and representatives is to model strength and harmony in diversity to our own members and to the wider world.”