Use and abuse of “points-of-order” in parliament

by - Research Team posted over 8 years ago in Analysis


A point-of-order is an important instrument of parliament. All members have a right to raise a point-of-order. The purpose is to bring to the attention of the house that some aspect of agreed parliamentary norms are being violated. That is its proper USE. The right can also be ABUSED. That happens when a member purports to have a point of order, but makes a flawed representation that only succeeds in interrupting proceedings or causing a disturbance.

Making a proper point-of-order requires active listening, and a good command of parliamentary procedure. Therefore, tracking the use and abuse of points of order is important. It indicates the alertness of members as well as the integrity of their participation – are they using or abusing this instrument?

Half of parliament was not awake to points of order is a pioneering online platform that monitors and ranks all the proceedings and actors in parliament. Its data for 28 months, from May 2012-August 2014, which had 206 sittings, shows that on average six points-of-order are made per parliamentary sitting (a total of 1222).  However, almost half the members of parliament (49%) failed to raise even a single point-of-order during those 206 parliamentary sittings.  

Is it better to be asleep? Or awake and disruptive?

The fact that half the parliamentarians were not awake to points of order does not mean the behaviour of the other half is creditable. It turns out that the half that were making points-of-order were, overall, more prone to ABUSE points-of-order (invoke it improperly to disrupt) rather than to articulate a proper point-of-order.

Exhibit 1 shows that of the total only 47% of the points-of-order conformed to proper use, 53% were an abuse of the instrument. Perhaps then there is some virtue to being in the more sleepy half of parliament – at least they are not using points-of-order to disrupt the proceedings.  


Halls of fame for using and abusing points-of-order

Proper users: documents 20 MPs as having made at least 15 points-of-order during the period. Among these, in percentage terms, Dinesh Gunawardena (Chief Government Whip) has the highest rate – 86% – of using points of order properly (Exhibit 2). Next in line are M.A. Sumanthiran (86%) and John Amarathunga (79%).

Abusers: Of these 20 MPs, in percentage terms Mervyn Silva was the greatest abuser (Exhibit 2), where more than three-quarters (78%) of his points-of-order are abuses of the procedure. Two other leading abusers are Sujeewa Senasinghe (77%) and Lakshman Kiriella (67%).  


Guinness record for greatest user as well as abuser

One single MP in parliament stands out for the sheer number of points-of-order made. A full 27% of the all the points-of-order in parliament were made by A.H.M. Azwer (a total of 326 of the 1222!). The next highest is Ravi Karunanayake with just 78 points-of-order. That means Azwer asked four times more than the second highest.

In absolute numbers A.H.M. Azwer is both the greatest user and the greatest abuser of points-of-order: 188 (58%) were abuses and only 138 (42%) were proper uses.

In total, A.H.M. Azwer is responsible for 24% of the total proper uses of points-of-order, and 29% of the total abuses of points-of-order.  

The data from suggests that some MPs are causing a great deal of disruption in parliament by the improper use of points-of-order. How can parliament be safeguarded from such disruptions? Who should be responsible for the solution? Please write your thoughts to [email protected] or by text to 071-4639882.


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