The Sunday Leader

Can The Vulgar, Brawling ‘Gentlemen’ Be Halted?

Regular vulgar, rowdy, outbursts of disgusting abuse breaking out into brawls have been witnessed in our holy of holies on the Diyawanna Lake for quite some time. After such occurrences the prude, elitists and editorialists far removed from the scene call for various remedies to be implemented immediately, to stop the rot.

Ironically, ‘the honourable gentlemen’ themselves, who were active participants in hurling abuse and brawling, too make strident calls soon after the event to ‘halt the descent of Sri Lankan politics to the lowest possible levels’. This is reminiscent of a thief after a robbery shouting out loudly: ‘thief, ‘thief’ to show others that he is not the culprit.

Change of the current political culture is popular favourite call of many of those who simply do not understand what culture is about. The Westminster system where an elected government is opposed by an elected opposition is often identified as the font of all evil. It is like a game of tennis where the ball is hit from one court to the other which is not compatible with our ancient culture, it is claimed. Old is gold specially when it is ours, and the Gam Sabha system, where the village elders preside over the assembly of villagers and decisions are taken by consensus, has been strongly advocated as an ideal form of governance.

A similar kind of system, by accident or design has been replicated in our parliament where leaders of the two main political parties are working together as a government and not opposing each other while there is a miniscule Opposition.

Is the system working? Certainly not, because the minority Opposition wants to rule the country with a leader who was thrown out by the voters. The current filthy abuse and brawls are all about that.

This is an excellent example of ‘Any foolproof system not being foolproof with bloody fools’.

It should have a sobering effect on those now engaged in drawing up a new constitution with the intention of curing our current political ills.

A question which the framers of the new constitution should ask themselves is: Can any kind of constitution survive politicians of the current caliber and mentality? Is that the basic reason why Sri Lanka has not been able to make much headway during the post-Independence 68 years? Is the cause the unsuitability of the three constitutions we have had or the political mentality of our politicians?

Before making of constitutions the task should be to find politicians who can implement constitutional provisions as intended by framers of the constitution.

To create a better politician thought should be paid on how it can be done.

A good start was made during the run-up to the parliamentary election of 2015 when civil societies and community leaders like the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera made specific pleas to political parties to choose candidates with sufficient educational qualifications, possessing exemplary character and no criminal records. The choice of such legislators was essential for the proposed good governance of the country, it was stressed.

The venerable monk died a short while after the government was formed. It is said that he died heartbroken. Instead of MPs with sufficient educational qualifications, good character and no criminal records, defeated candidates became cabinet ministers! With that much of the Good Governance hopes went out with the wind.

The glib proposal of some of our legislators of ‘dawning a new political culture’ should be looked into detail. What kind of political culture do they envisage? Can a society steeped in corruption and criminality produce honest, law abiding politicians?

It may be difficult to reform society as a whole in a short time but if honest and educated politicians are selected as candidates, there is the possibility of some degree of transformation in politics.

Much would depend on the leadership of political parties. While the ability of a candidate to win an electorate should be a prime consideration, it should not be the sole consideration. That would indeed be a tough call on the party leadership but if they cannot reject criminals and thugs who may be able win an electorate, then these leaders too should not be in politics.

All that however is idealism which is quite far away from the current status quo of our politics.

The electorate should also be held partly responsible because many of the undesirables have been returned to parliament on many occasions. A basic principle in a democracy is that an electorate gets the representative it deserves.The Yahapalanaya government leaders, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe should realise that it is their government that is on trial and their supporters expect their representatives to behave like honourable gentlemen as they are addressed. They cannot be excused from a brawl by giving the schoolboy excuse: ‘He hit me first, Sir.’

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