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India should remain a parliamentary democracy: Somnath

Wednesday 13 April 2005, by SURYANARAYANA*P.S.

SINGAPORE, APRIL 12. The Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, on Monday met the Speaker of the Singapore Parliament, Abdullah Tarmugi. He also held talks with the City-State’s Education Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, before leaving for home.

Mr. Chatterjee had reached here on Saturday from Manila, where he participated in the 112th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Opposing the move by Australia to subject him to rigorous security checks, under its new mandatory law, and thereby treat him as "a security risk" in a manner that would only be "an affront" to the dignity of India, Mr. Chatterjee did not proceed from here to Sydney, where he was originally scheduled to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

Describing his talks here as "very good and very friendly" in scope, Mr. Chatterjee said that he asked for Singapore’s support for India’s candidate, Hashim Abdul Halim, for the post of Chairman of the CPA Executive Committee. Similar support has been sought from a number of other countries.

Responding to questions from The Hindu , Mr. Chatterjee advocated that India should stay the course of parliamentary democracy.

Discounting the Presidential form of government as a "disastrous" proposition in the Indian context, he said that "whenever power has been concentrated in one hand, it has been found to be misused."

Recognising that "some checks and balances will remain "under the Indian parliamentary system, he commended the way the people "have shown maturity in electoral politics" by changing governments "peacefully, without any turmoil".

Pointing to his commitment to "people’s democracy" in a larger context, Mr. Chatterjee acknowledged that "it will not come" into being during his lifetime and emphasised that "the basic postulate of parliamentary democracy is accountability to the people".

Noting how the Speaker’s Chair in the Lok Sabha provided him with a vantage view of "the whole mosaic of India", he said the telecasting of parliamentary proceedings denoted an "extension of the visitor’s gallery to the entire country".

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