Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the President in November 2019, we often hear most of the Ministers giving credit to the President for whatever the new project they start.
They say it was initiated with the blessings, or under the instructions of the President. These could be matters relating to road development, the environment, the wildlife, economic policy or even cultural and religious activities.
Even after parliament was dissolved and parties are campaigning for the General elections on August 5, at political rallies we hear most ministers and other ruling party politicians saying they are planning to do this or that project under the guidance of the President or the Prime Minister. It is unfortunate that Sri Lanka does not appear to have ruling party politicians who could think creatively and act with imagination and enterprise on their own. Most of these politicians are not creative or innovative and are not humble enough to get the advice of expertise of the subjects concern. Most of them act like mere cronies, lackeys or sometimes as goons.
The root cause appears to be education. An important issue that needs a wide discussion is the education level of most of our politicians.
According to a report presented by former Peradeniya University Prof. M.O.A. de Zoysa, the last parliament was disgraceful because there were more than 90 MPs who had not even passed their GCE Ordinary Level examination. Of the 225 members there were only 25 graduates. With a population of about 22 million and 90 percent literacy rate, Sri Lanka deserves to have a much more educated parliament.
In our parliament and even in the Cabinet, Ministers of State or Deputy Ministers, the education level appears to be much lower than in most Asian countries.
In Singapore for instance with a population of over five million, there are 22 ministers and as many as 20 of them have post-graduate degrees. In India, there are 26 Cabinet Ministers and 49 State Ministers. A majority of them have university degrees in law. In the United Kingdom most of the politicians there have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge or other widely respected universities.
In Sri Lanka, the education level of most members is revealed by the way they behave and the language they use. In the former Parliament, there were MPs who threw chairs and books at opponents and even used foul language that is normally heard among underworld gangs. One MP went to the level of throwing chilli powder at opponents and when questioned later he responded saying that he did so to protect democracy. What else can we expect from a politician who knows little about democracy, lest about how it originated, parliamentary ethics, values and its overall vision?
Now that the Parliamentary election is round the corner, a reflection on the history of our parliament and the qualities of some leaders we had would be a good lesson for those who are campaigning to become members. To mention a few, we could name D. S. Senanayake and Dudley Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe, J. R. Jayewardene, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake and Lakshman Kadirgamar.
Whatever the party, race or religion, it is the responsibility of the citizens to elect members who are educated, creative, enterprising, sincere, honest, hard-working MPs, selfless and sacrificial.
We need politicians who are educated, brave and bold enough to advise or guide even the President or the Prime Minister without just being sycophant or stooges or little more than to say ‘Yes Sir, yes Sir’ without having three bags full of knowledge to show the sir.