President Mahinda Rajapaksa had said at the Getambe Rajopawanaramaya on Saturday that he hopes to introduce amendments to the Constitution with a view to absorb qualified people into politics. He had pointed out that degrees and postgraduate degrees are the qualifications for politicians in some countries such as Pakistan. No doubt, the news item on this statement might have been a relief for hundreds of thousands of people in the country as it has been their life long craving to see their representatives with virtues such as education, ethics, sacrifice, dedication, honesty and capabilities.
The President was on a courtesy call on Ven. Keppetiyagoda Siri Wimala Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the Getambe Rajopawanaramaya, and was responding to the prelate who while saying that an unprecedented moral decay is prevalent in the country had requested the President to take measures to rectify the situation. The place where these remarks on morality and virtues were made by the incumbents of the country and a leading Buddhist temple is very significant since it has a standing reminiscence of ruination of political decency by a predecessor of the former against that of the latter in the eighties.
The Rajopawanaramaya was once a victim of political highhandedness by the first Executive President Junius Richard Jayewardene by way of putting up a barbed wire fence around it for several days with hundreds of policemen cordoning it off, turning it into a virtual open prison, owing to a disagreement with the then chief prelate of the temple.
Ven. Siri Wimala Thera, while calling for a society with values was apparently not of the view that only the paper qualifications would meet the requirements of the problem. He had been specifically concerned about the morality of the country’s politicians which is a far cry from the know-how of the material world that is signified by certificates.
The country had seen many politicians and bureaucrats who had stooped to the level of subservience to corrupt practices, incompetence and many more administrative as well as political vices including muscle power in place of intellectual discourse, irrespective of several titles being tagged before and after their names. At the same time there are millions of people without any such titles, but abiding by the laws of the country and the etiquettes of their respective religions.
Pakistan, the example cited by the President for politicians with paper qualifications is a well-known failed story like many other countries in respect of political ethics. Hence one cannot expect a society with decency and decorum with paper qualifications alone, despite the fact that such qualifications have largely the potential to contribute to that end.
The Venerable Thera had attributed the decadence of morality in the country to the politicians of all political parties, while asserting the need for the government to take the moral responsibility for the situation. One has to admit the fact that despite there being a role that has to be played by the religious leaders in the country towards the moral uplift of their followers, they too are sometimes wooed by the corrupt politicians through the carrot and stick policy.
As we had seen during all the elections in the past almost all political parties take whatever the winning potentials of candidates including their popularity in other fields such as cinema, power of money, notoriety in muscle power and shamelessly, even the caste as qualifications for them. The idea is winning elections by hook or by crook, since politics has become the easiest way for big-time money making. Setting some sort of minimum qualifications for candidacy in all elections through legislation, as the President suggested might bring the situation under control to some extent, but even for that such qualifications must enshrine moral issues as well.