atara District United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian Buddika Pathirana last week revealed an important fact about his colleagues, the legislators of Sri Lanka. According to Mr. Pathirana 142 out of the 225 members in the current Parliament have not passed the GCE Advanced Level examination while 94 of the 142 MPs have not even passed the GCE Ordinary Level examination. “This is today’s state of affairs in Parliament the members of which administer the country. Although I don’t have statistics on the situation in the Provincial Councils and other local bodies, I’m sure it cannot be better”
Mr. Pathirana had told .
Isn’t this a situation that people in the country have to be concerned about? In a country where about a half of the younger generation possess O/L certificates, to see 94 out of 225 legislators who promulgate laws that govern the affairs of the masses do not have at least the same is pathetic. Currently the O/L certificate is required only for the post of office assistant or the peons in many institutions in the public and private sectors.
The Parliament is meant mainly for debates on everything that would affect the lives of the people in the country and for monitoring and approving large-scale monetary transactions carried out by the State. Debates are meaningless if a significant number of members in the Legislature do not have the knowledge to grasp the subject matter under discussion and how will this affect the fiscal viability of the State, environment, the security of the state, the people, the sovereignty of the country, the much talked-about reconciliation and many other matters.
Another remark made by Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, at a recent TV interview, on the need for a well-versed group of legislators would also be food for thought. He lamented that most of the big-time corruptions involving billions of rupees by the officials of many sectors go unchecked mainly because of lack of technical knowledge on the part of the ministers, deputy ministers and the secretaries of the concerned ministries. Citing an example the minister said that he, being an electrical engineer was able to find many such unscrupulous dealings when he was the Minister of Power and Energy and regretted that he too did not have the knowledge to investigate issues that come under various other sectors.
That gives an idea on the level the legislators of a country have to possess if the country needs to be independent of corruption, waste and malpractices. One might argue that setting a minimum education for politicians would infringe their political rights. But having a set of politicians who do not know what they are voting for or against in the Parliament is infringing the rights of 20 million people. This is a matter of serious concern in Sri Lanka. It should be noted that in countries like Iran, politicians are required to prove their educational qualifications as well as credentials of integrity.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa too a few weeks ago insisted on the need to have educational qualifications for politicians and had editorially commented on it. But it is difficult to expect the same Parliament with 142 members without A/L qualifications and 94 without O/L qualifications to bring in laws that would provide for legislators with minimum qualifications being elected.