Parliamentary Symbols and Ceremonies
The Mace, the symbol of authority of Parliament, was gifted to the Ceylon House of Representatives in 1949 by the British House of Commons. Then it was valued at 2,500 pounds. It weighs 28 pounds and measures 48 inches in length. The design was inspired by the architecture of the ancient temples of Ceylon and the ornamentation is based on the Lotus. The open Lotus is an emblem of Eternity and Beauty and the closed Lotus depicts perfect peace.
The mace is composed of a staff of ebony with ornamentation in silver, 18-carat gold and sapphires. The base is composed of an inverted Lotus in silver and gold and the first knop also includes the Lotus together with two chased gold bands. Above that is a band of sapphires supporting a longer chased gold band, above which is an octagonal silver knop. This in turn supports four sections in silver and 18-carat gold still in Lotus form, representing the four quarters of the Earth, from which hang sapphire and gold drops. Above this is a cube on which are chased four emblems: the Sun and the Moon symbolic of Perpetuity, the Chakra a symbol of Progress and a Bowl of Flowers (Purna Ghata) symbolic of Prosperity. Above this is the main feature of the Mace, a sphere of silver on which are mounted two chased Sinhalese Lions (Sehala) with drawn sword. Above this sphere appears again the Lotus, another band of sapphires and an octagonal polished crystal terminal, symbolic of purity.
The Mace has remained the symbol of authority of Parliament and, through Parliament, of the Speaker, and as such Parliament cannot sit without the Mace. The Speaker enters and leaves the Chamber preceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace and the Secretary-General and his Deputies. While Parliament is in session the Mace is placed by the Sergeant-at-Arms on the bracket provided for the purpose immediately below the table of the Secretary-General of Parliament.
Hansard is the official printed verbatim record of the Parliamentary proceedings including messages from the President, the Speaker's Announcements, Questions, etc. The speeches of Members of Parliament are recorded in Hansard in the language in which they are made.
The Speaker's Chair, a gift of the House of Commons of Great Britain to the Ceylon House of Representatives, is fashioned from pure English oak, reported to be over 200 years old.
It is made from a part of a beam of the House of Commons dislodged when it was partly destroyed during World War II. It stands six feet high and is carved in the design of leaves which are gilded.
It is upholstered in deep maroon, and the Sinhala Lion (Sehala) with drawn sword is embossed in gold on the leather under the head of the Chair.
Most of the ceremonies connected with Parliament have generally been adopted from those followed in the British House of Commons. There are many colourful ceremonies attached to Parliament. The most colourful is the inauguration of a new session of Parliament when the President drives into the Parliament Complex in an atmosphere of ceremonial grandeur and pageantry complete with Magul Bera (Symbolic Drums) and Jayamangala Gatha (Blessings) t be received by the Speaker and his staff in ceremonial dress. On this special day distinguished citizens and officials are invited guests of the Speaker. They will hear the President's Address of Parliament which spells out in broad outline the programme of work of the Government during the ensuring period.
Another colourful event in parliament is the Budget Speech in which the Finance Minister unfolds his budgetary plans of the fiscal year.
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