Mahinda Rajapaksa (left) and President Sirisena
There is much debate going on in Social Media as to who should represent the country’s people in parliament. Most potential candidates for the presidency have already shortlisted the members of their probable cabinets while dreaming of a better and prosperous Sri Lanka. This is why this year and the following year are important; hence Sri Lankans must use their votes wisely.
Sinhalese hardliners are very happy that the present cabinet doesn’t include any Muslims. This is because Ven. Rathana Thera’s hunger strike influenced nine lawmakers-there were four Cabinet ministers among them-resign from their portfolios.
Sinhala hardliners want people with patriotic ideas to fill the seats in Parliament. The more liberal minded citizens who wish to raise their living conditions and move up a few notches in life would wish to have lawmakers who have an acute sense for business.
Having lawmakers who represent these two types of voters or two sections of the public wouldn’t solve Sri Lanka’s puzzle, which is to find a future leader. Then there are those who harp on the fact that those who enter parliament should be educated and possess a degree as the minimum qualification. This is the tragedy of our thinking. Let me explain.
Sri Lanka needs a set of lawmakers who represent people from all walks of life. This is because Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. We even have a section of the society which is termed the clergy. And even they should be represented in parliament or even at provincial council level.
- But take into consideration the Zion Church in Baticaloa. It still remains in its devastated condition after the Easter Sunday bombings
- Tourism is the ninth largest foreign exchange earner in Sri Lanka and needs a competent individual in Parliament to represent the industry
- Has Nagananda considered having among the educated people he has earmarked those with wisdom and maturity?
- As much as you need competence you also need people with wisdom and sometimes wit too. Nagananda seems too straightjacketed and might run into a horde of problems if elected
Take for an example the work of Bishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. He now moves closely with parliamentarians and even offered support when Ven. Rathana Thera staged a fast at the Temple of the Tooth; many are of the opinion that the fast was politically motivated.
What is the result of Cardinal’s recent work; the speedy refurbishing of the St.Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade which was wrecked by a bomb blast. But take into consideration the Zion Church in Baticaloa. It still remains in its devastated condition after the Easter Sunday bombings due to lack of political patronage.
The same can be said about roads and school buildings which are in a debilitated condition because those schools and roads are in villages which have limited potential to generate votes for lawmakers. As a result one seldom sees politicians visiting such villages to look into the welfare of the people.
Sinhalese politicians might not fancy Muslims in the north, South, East and Central Provinces. Central province was one area where there was much tension between these two communities. But the Muslim votes in these troubled areas are important to Sinhalese politicians and that’s why these lawmakers find ways to accommodate members of this minority community; often luring them by offering them ministerial positions. Much is said about Rishad Bathiudeen. He quit before the allegations levelled against him could be proven. Bathiudeen represents the north and the present government is aware of the votes he can generate for them. This is the reason for the efforts the regime takes to shield him from his adversaries. The Muslims in the Western Province are a peaceful lot and have co-existed with the majority Sinhalese in the best possible manner.
Coming back to who should enter parliament a representative each from the island’s key business areas should be appointed to serve parliament. Take for an example the tourism industry. Entrepreneurs involved in tourism complain that their businesses are choking because travel advisories which were once issued by thriving nations like UK, Switzerland, USA, Netherlands and India. This is why Sri Lanka needs a competent individual as the Minister of Tourism. The present Minister of Tourism John Amaratunga came in for heavy criticism when he once blamed a female rape victim, who was on holiday in Sri Lanka. The minister blamed the tourist who was raped in Nuwara Eliya citing that she exposed herself to risk by hiking alone in the evening. Tourism is the ninth largest foreign exchange earner in Sri Lanka and needs a competent individual in Parliament to represent the industry.
There are 225 slots in parliament, but the core areas of administration or in other words the important ministries must be handled by educated individuals who possess the minimum qualification amounting to a college degree. It leaves room for doubt and suspicion to creep in when the country’s finance minister’s only known qualification is the graduation he earned in clothing and design and technology from St. Martin’s School of Art in London.
It’s essential that such a post like the Minister of Finance is held by a financial expert armed with a degree. That the person selected for the post needing to have a clean track record goes without saying.
Another point that needs to be highlighted is the improvements one makes after entering parliament. A person with a background in transport if made the minister of transport must raise the standard of transport in the country. He must acquire new knowledge and business acumen. Entering parliament is not an achievement in itself if the individual fails to make things happen it would be deemed he was a failure.
Presidential hopeful Nagananda Koddithuwakku boasts of being able to raise the economic profile of the country through a mini Cabinet. He wants to employ only professionals with proven track records and have only those who are truly qualified.
Has Nagananda considered having among the educated people he has earmarked those with wisdom and maturity?
Sometimes politicians, if not the president himself, might be forced to carry a few passengers in a Cabinet due to reasons best known to him or his ‘government’.
When an educated matured person states that he would carry a passenger in the institute he represents and heads, it often amounts to a mature statement.
As much as you need competence you also need people with wisdom and sometimes wit too. Nagananda seems too straightjacketed and might run into a horde of problems if elected. Right now we know that President Sirisena and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa have patched up their differences to some extent. According to newspaper reports Sirisena has said that he wouldn’t run for the presidency a second time. Sirisena has added that he also wouldnt support Mahinda Rajapaksa at future elections. When Mahinda confronted Sirisena recently to inquire into these utterances, Sirisena is reported to have said, “There are things that I said and didn’t say which have been included in these newspaper reports”. But the president didn’t give details about what he didn’t say. This is political maturity and Presidential hopefuls like Nagananda, who want only professionals in parliament, can take a cue from senior politicians like Sirisena.