To facilitate the effective functioning of the House of Parliament by providing the highest possible quality services in a timely and efficient manner to the Speaker, Members of Parliament, their staff, Staff of Parliament and other Ancillary Staff.
Office of the Serjeant-at-Arms in Sri Lanka, it’s history
- The need to provide a Mace and to appoint a Serjeant-at-Arms was considered for the first time by the Parliament of then Ceylon on the 20th July, 1931.
- A Committee comprising Messers Sir Francis Molamure, the then Speaker; Susantha de Fonseka; Major J.W. Oldfield, MBE; Dr. V.R. Shockman; D.D. Athulathmudali and G.N. Farquahr, the then Secretary to the State Council considered these issues.
- In March 1933, the State Council considered the Powers and Functions of the Serjeant-at-Arms, his staff and certain other matters including the procedure that should be followed when admitting Visitors to the Galleries.
- Under Article 65(3) of the Constitution, the Serjeant-at-Arms is appointed by the Secretary General of Parliament with the approval of the Hon. Speaker.
- The first Serjeant-at-Arms was appointed in 1947 and the Mace was presented by the House of Commons in 1949. Mr. M. Ismail, MBE was the first Serjeant-at-Arms and held the post from 1947-1961. Thereafter, the following succeeded in this position:-
- Mr. J.R. de Silva – 1961 to 1970
- Mr. Ronnie Abeysinghe – 1970 to 1996
- Mr. Wijaya Palliyaguruge – 1996 to 2006
- Mr. Anil Parakrama Samarasekera - 2006 to 2018
Mr. Narendra Fernando - 2018 to date
- Serjeant-at-Arms is the Custodian of the “Mace”, which symbolises the authority of Parliament and inside the House he is the officer, who carries out the Orders given by the Chair.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is empowered to execute the Orders given by the Chair to suspend a Member of Parliament temporarily or to remove the relevant Member from the Chamber for disobeying or disregarding the Authority of the Chair or for deliberately interrupting the Proceedings of Parliament repeatedly or violating Parliamentary Standing Orders. Standing Orders 77 to 81 become effective in such instances.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is empowered to accompany any witness, accused or any other person to the Bar of the House when such person is summoned before the Bar of the House.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is empowered on a Written or Oral Order of the Speaker, to take any person into custody, without a Warrant, who has been found guilty of indecent behaviour within the premises of the Parliament or the building or who had entered the building in an illegal manner or who causes disturbances or who supports others to do so on a Sitting Day and to keep him in safe custody until such time as the Parliament decides whether or not any punishment should be meted out to him under the Parliament (Powers & Privileges) Act and the Standing Orders
- It is the Serjeant-at-Arms, who administers the procedure upon the Orders given by the Speaker, which includes the handing over of such persons, who were under arrest.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is directed to immediately look into any matter, when a Member of Parliament raises a matter in the House and he is bound to submit an impartial report on same.
- Serjeant-at-Arms has the power to request any Member of Parliament, who enters the Chamber of the House improperly dressed (not in the approved Attire) to withdraw from the Chamber immediately.
- In the performance of his duties, the Serjeant-at-Arms occupies a special place in the Chamber next to the main door.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is the only person, who could carry a weapon (Sword), which is part of his Ceremonial Dress, inside the Chamber of the House.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is a Member of the Association of Serjeants-at-Arms in the Commonwealth Parliaments and attends its Sessions in order to familiarize with the modern developments in the management of Parliaments.
- Serjeant-at-Arms is the Chief Enforcer legally empowered to execute the Orders given by the Hon. Speaker, who is the Guardian of the privileges of the House.
- The Appointment and the Retirement of the Serjeant-at-Arms is announced in the Parliament as a tradition. And a date will be allocated for a Vote of Appreciation of Service and same will be taken up on the floor of the House at the time of the retirement of the Serjeant-at-Arms.
- The Department of the Serjeant-at-Arms is one of the most important departments in the Parliament and it is the second oldest department, the first being the Office of the Secretary General of Parliament.
- The present day duties of the Serjeant-at-Arms could best be described as being administrative, very much at the centre of the affairs of the House.
- During the normal Sitting Days of the House, the Serjeant-at-Arms wears a white colour uniform and on Ceremonial Occasions is clad with specially designed black colour Ceremonial Attire. (equivalent to the Rank of the Major-General)
- Functions of the Serjeant-at-Arms include Ceremonial, Chamber, Security, Visitor Administration, Accommodation, and Departmental.
- Current Serjeant-at-Arms, Mr. Narendra Fernando, is assisted by his Deputy Mr. Kushan Jayaratne, to execute the duties and functions attached to this post.
- Arrange at the appropriate standard, the ceremonial functions/activities of Parliament and of the Speaker. (including Lying in State funeral activities)
- Custody and Protection of the “Mace” which symbolizes the authority of Parliament
- Attend upon the Speaker and carry out those functions, which derive from the Serjeant-at-Arms attendance upon the Speaker as the executive authority of the House.
- Provide high quality direct support to the legislative process by ensuring that the necessary support staff and facilities to enhance the Chamber and Committees of the House to function efficiently.
- Provide a safe and secure environment and infrastructure throughout the Parliamentary Complex by ensuring that the risk from violence, accident and fire for those who work in and visit the Parliamentary Complex is managed and minimized.
- Maintain the physical security of the Parliament and its precincts with the co-operation of the Parliament Police Division, effectively and efficiently and provide useful advice to the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament on protective security for the Members, Staff and Visitors within the Parliamentary Precincts.
- Maintain order within the Precincts of Parliament.
- Ensure that appropriate security checks are undertaken for the granting of security clearance for construction of buildings around the high security zone of the Parliamentary Complex.
- Jointly administer Parliamentary Security arrangements with the Director Parliament Police Division including –
- Access Control;
- Security screening;
- Maintenance of response capabilities;
- Technical Security;
- Liaison with the three forces, Police and intelligence agencies;
- Co-ordination of specialized resources;
- Planning on major events involving foreign dignitaries; and
- Planning on special category threats.
- Control and regulate the admission of persons to the Parliamentary Complex.
- Facilitate school visits and other visitors to the Parliament
- Ensure that the Parliamentary Complex is a good place to work in and to visit by providing a quality environment and infrastructure for Members of Parliament and all those who work in and visit the Parliament.
- Advice on and administer the allocation of accommodation throughout the Parliament Building including the booking of Committee and Interview Rooms.
- Provide effective and efficient support to the Head of the Institution in his/her role of providing strategic leadership and overall management of departmental resources and provide quality advice and efficient and effective support services.
- Deliver high quality customer/telephone services to agreed standard and which are relevant and accessible to all who work in and visit Parliament