The Sunday Leader

Uneducated Thugs Or Qualified Swindlers Better Legislators?

by Gamini Weerakoon

When Sri Lankan politics reaches a crisis point and the real culprits responsible for the crisis cannot be fixed, there is a consensual feeling that the honourable MPs are to be blamed. Right now questions are being asked in the media whether the present crisis was inevitable because 94 MPs of the contingent of 225 haven’t passed the GCE-OL examination.

Our thinking about the need for ‘educated MPs’ was somewhat jolted when we accidently came across a quotation of a former American President a long time ago, Theodore Roosevelt: ‘A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad’.

Indeed it reminded us that the qualified – as we Sri Lankans say ‘educated’ – can not only be crooked but could account for the damage done by GCE-OL failed types many fold.

It is not to condemn all qualified men as rogues and scoundrels but to accept the fact that there are many such rotters in the deep unfathomed caves of our times.


Platonic times

The issue of rulers being educated go back to ancient times and Sri Lankan contributors to the debate have gone back to the days of Plato who proposed in his utopia that rulers should be philosophers – philosopher kings.

Historians note that this ideal of philosopher kings was not attained even in Plato’s time and that kings were basically thugs who seized power with the force of arms and clothed themselves with philosophies and religions to justify their criminality. History’s ‘Great Kings’ could in today’s terminology be described as fascists, genocidal maniacs, religious fanatics and such terms that are constantly used to describe modern day politicians. The story line remains the same throughout history from the conquests of Alexander the Great, through the Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, and colonial empires to the present day save for brief respites in history when sane and humane rulers prevailed.


Inner party democracy

Today’s world has no ruling monarchs, save for the impotent British monarch and as ailing and aging Marxists say, the dollar is the king. Those cynics say that is why a billionaire holds the most powerful post of earth and acts as the monarch of all he surveys, not giving a damn to democratic institutions painfully built up by his countrymen for over two centuries.

Coming back to Sri Lanka, in theory, sovereign power rests with the people and is supposed to be exercised through the people’s representatives and the elected president. But before elected representatives go before the people, they are selected by party leaders who have built up their power in party organisations to be virtually unchallenged. Thus, the people in Sri Lanka do not have much of a chance to elect an honest and qualified intelligent MP quite apart from a philosopher king!

They are often presented with the choice of the party leader whose stipulated basic qualification is loyalty to him, his family, party cohorts. The others are of course his financial clout and ability to win.

A basic flaw in Sri Lankan democracy from the very beginning is the absence of true inner party democracy in any known party. The election of the party hierarchy, its various committees and selection committees do not take place or are mere shams enacted under the shadow of the party leadership. The electorate, particularly under the present proportional representative system on a district basis the electors have been cut away from the candidates to the extent that votes are cast for candidates assigned to the electorate by the party but who the voters have not even met!

The election of party officials and their leaders who often become the presidential candidate is like an annual scout jamboree at a massive stadium. All names proposed are declared winners by loud unanimous acclaim. Pity those dissenters if there are any.

In most western democracies selection of party representatives even for presidency or premiership goes through an inner party process. Ranked idiots and criminals of all kinds find it difficult to go through the process.

No democratic process is free of flaws but some process of selection is better than no process at all.

Much publicity has been given to the proposals and amendments that are being made to the new constitution but this aspect of selection of party candidates for elections has not been heard of. Perhaps it is not possible for party procedures to be included in the Constitution because political party selections should have no nexus with the constitution.

We do not profess to be constitutional pundits but it would be incumbent on framers of the constitution to attempt ensure the quality of legislators. Will not some basic rules regarding selection of candidates for elections ensure a better Sri Lankan democracy?

6 Comments for “Uneducated Thugs Or Qualified Swindlers Better Legislators?”

  1. Sangaralingham

    Country going to the———.does citizens know how to elect members to there any reason many are not competent to sit there. There was a case of oxford educated politicians whose cerebral cortex decided Sinhala should be official language certain eminent politician including Dr.N.M.P adviced him that would be a bad move. Yes there must be some MPs with him probably forced other MPs to vote for it followed by sending lot of goons in the street to stack citizens. What is the end result disaster to all ot one for over 28 millions. Wise decision for any country must come from a intelligent man woman from a intelligent person from the the extreme minority group. . People at large must know how to vote for the right person eith sound education reasonable commonsense and sound education

  2. Sangaralingham

    All MPs getting into the parliament must be sound mind good morals free of any mental disease at success in studied and passed GE ordinary level or higher level
    Or success in some entrepreneurial practice
    This must be incorporated in constiution

  3. One great solution is to adopt the US system of selecting local candidates through primaries. So even within the same party a number of candidates will go before party members on a secret ballot.

    More importantly our current JRJ constitution is deeply flawed and must be changed. In this process , there is no harm to consult local or foreign experts on constitutional law… Why not ?

  4. Jamputs

    Uneducated parliament is one of the major calamities of Lanka. They are also not educated but also has a criminal or thug or gangster background, who ultimately rise up with in the ranks and end up being ministers. These culprits will raise their hand to any thing just like they raised hands to ex CJ’s case to please the leaders. Doing politics in Lanka is a gold mine for many and they want to latch on to it by hook or by crook. These crooks are driven by luxury cars and entitlements , security, power over local matters ( police etc) so that they extend their power base. But if MP’s are given only basic facilities to do their job with out any luxuries, these culprits will disappear.

    Professionals are unlikely to behave in this manner. As educated people, they will not be fearful to criticise even their party or leader, and if chucked out, they will have their profession to go back to. Professionals also find it difficult to come in to politics unless there is a level playing field in particular with regards to election expenses. When thugs and gangsters supported by drug mafia or crooked businessman spending multimillions, professionals are automatically are unable to compete with them. Capping election expenses could potentially remove this anomally.

    It is vital for all political parties to have basic criteria as well as a nomination process driven locally as well as at the centre. Just because some one was a MP or a minister, should not be the criteria to get an automatic nomination. It should be based on their performance, character and efficiency. Today we see some utter useless people who were minister 20 yrs ago are still given similar positions- ‘just because they are senior’.

    Politics in Lanka need to change for good.

  5. Abayawansa

    What about the President

  6. kanal

    O, Mr Candidate! Do you want to serve the people, or else, do you want to amass wealth, coming into politics?: this must be the first and foremost question from the voter, and there must be a definite answer from the candidate. There must be some mechanism devised to ensure and improve on this.

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