A sensible proposal | Daily News

A sensible proposal

Buddha Sasana and Cultural Affairs Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka is certainly not going to be popular among most of his Parliamentary colleagues after declaring that those entering politics should have a minimum educational qualification. He certainly has stirred a hornet's nest, given the recent revelation that as much as one third of our current crop of MPs had not passed their GCE (O/L) examination and among them are quite a few school dropouts too including some who held ministerial portfolios in the last Government. The minister also insisted that MPs’ should have the requisite educational qualification to hold minister posts in future and this should also be applied to the President and the Prime Minister as well.

One could not but agree with Minister Wickramanayaka's view that politicians, especially Members of Parliament, should be possessed with the required educational qualifications. Today most of the problems that the country had been faced with could easily be traced to the lack of education of most of our ministers and MPs who are vested with the onerous responsibility of taking decisions that directly affect the public. Ministers who have little or no grasp of the subjects they have been entrusted with is a dangerous business since they are bound to make errors of judgement that can have grave repercussions for the people and the country at large. True, for the most part, ministers rely on officials to tender the necessary advice. But this could have setbacks particularly if such officials knowingly proffer the wrong advice for their own benefit. The country is still paying a heavy price for the wrong advice given for the banning of chemical fertilizer. This shows the importance for a minister to have a good knowledge of the subject he/she is entrusted with. In Singapore, it is compulsory for all aspiring MPs to possess sound educational qualifications. This speaks volumes for the high rate of success achieved by the port city State in its economic development and other spheres of activity. We too should rethink the present system where uneducated misfits gain easy access to Parliament at great cost to the country. Such individuals not only cause immense damage but also prevent the educated professionals and those with good breeding serving the people and the country beneficially by entering Parliament.

This is not to say that the present Parliament is devoid of highly educated ministers and MPs who have made a positive contribution in many fields. But for the larger part what we see are the shameless conduct and behaviour of a majority who are most unsuitable to occupy the Seats in the August Assembly. It is these types who are wanting in education. We have Parliamentarians who are unable to read and understand a Bill or give answers to questions raised on behalf of the public. Most times MPs are seen dozing during important debates in the House. There is also rampant absenteeism which is an indication that MPs are not taking their responsibilities towards the public with any degree of seriousness. All this could be traced to the poor educational standards of our honourable people's representatives which does not augur well for the country which as at no other time in its Post-Independence history is in need of rulers who are educated and resourceful in order to deal with the multifarious problems we are confronted with. There certainly cannot be room for mediocrity among our decision makers. We are in this state today chiefly as a result of poor decision making and a lack of understanding on the part of those who matter.

However, it is wishful thinking to believe that things will change for the better unless political party leaders take a firm decision to clean the Augean Stables. They (leaders) should take steps to nominate only those educated and capable individuals as candidates at elections if Parliament is to undergo a qualitative change and by extension for the country to benefit. Unless this happens the public will have to grin and bear with the mediocrity on offer and go on tolerating the antics of our MPs within the hallowed precincts of the Chamber of Parliament. But who will be the leader to thread a different course in the future? Unfortunately it is the uneducated and uncouth who are capable of winning the votes and popular with the public. It is these types who can whip up a public frenzy on election platforms and harvest the votes. In this sense, they are indispensable to the leaders who crave for power at whatever cost. Hence the public too have to take the responsibility for the deteriorating standards of Parliament. One recalls the late Minister Jeyaraj Fernadopulle once telling Parliament that he did not believe that only educated persons must enter Parliament. What matters most is the ability of politicians to be close to the people. In any event, under today’s electoral system where campaigning has to be conducted in an entire district, large sums of money have to be thrown around and it is the undesirables, and questionable characters who are in possession of the mega bucks to enable them to get elected. What is more, waiting in the wings to enter Parliament are their progeny who are already doing their apprenticeships in the Provincial Councils and Local Government institutions. Hence, the vicious cycle is bound to continue into the unforeseeable future, putting paid to Minister Wickramanayaka's hopes for a Parliament of the educated.

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