Parliamentary elections are round the corner. All political
parties are finalizing their nomination lists. Prospective
candidates are busy harnessing support. It is time opportune to
reflect on the nature of Parliamentarians, their duties and
obligations and the track record of those who have been lucky
enough to be Members of Parliament.
Parliament is the highest body that makes laws. It is the
supreme legislature of the country. It enshrines in itself the
sovereignty of the people expressed at periodic elections.
It is natural to expect that such an august body as the
Parliament or the supreme legislature should comprise of persons
of highest integrity, morality and commitment to serve the
public. While academic excellence is not a requirement,
Parliamentarians should have sufficient experience and political
acumen to be able to decide upon affairs of state.
We have had the example of humble persons with relatively
less education developing and performing as worthy
Parliamentarians contributing to the advancement of the country
and the people. At the same time there were also relatively
better learned gentlemen who hardly took part in debates in
Membership in Parliament should not be construed as a means
of self aggrandizement or building up oneís own self image. It
is an opportunity to serve the people with dedication and
commitment. It is a social contract given by the electorate on
trust. The trust of the electorate is the highest wealth of a
The reality unfortunately is not always like that. We have
seen politicians who used to visit even the humblest man on the
street in his ramshackle house during elections and promising
thousand and one things to better the poor manís life completely
ignoring him and even pretending not to know him after becoming
a Parliamentarian. Humbleness and simplicity before elections
are supplanted by ostentation and arrogance after being elected.
Further, there are numerous instances when the elected had
used his office for self aggrandizement at the expense of the
people. Contemptible also is the tendency shown by some
politicians to name public utilities built at public expense
named after them as if their private funds were used on them.
Parliament is a hallowed institution. It should peruse each
and every bill or resolution that comes before it with
seriousness and solemnity it deserves. Unfortunately there has
been a tendency of late to rush through important bills
expeditiously without providing adequate time to consider the
pros and cons of their implementation. The 17th Amendment to the
Constitution is a case in point. Even the Elections Commissioner
recently commented on its impracticability.
The elderly generation still nostalgically recalls the
excellent and rich debates that were held in Parliament in the
days of yore where the Parliamentarians, both of the Government
and the Opposition stand tall in comparison with their present
day counterparts. There were brilliant orators with erudition
and humour who enlivened the entire House with their
contributions even any most complicated subjects. It is a sad
reflection on the members when it is said that the present day
debates cannot be listened to by schoolchildren from the gallery
due to the un-parliamentary language used. Very often even the
tenor of speaking is similar to that at an election rally which
excludes serious study and debate.
Several Parliaments had also seen the cross-over of several
politicians from both sides of the House on grounds that gave
rise to allegations of buying over. This is an unhealthy
tradition which not only is an insult to the intelligence of the
voters but also a breach of the trust placed by them.
The political parties that are finalizing their lists of
nominations should give serious considerations to select persons
with integrity and high moral calibre from their parties.
Academicians, professionals as well as young and enthusiastic
politicians should comprise the nomination lists so as to ensure
a relatively better equipped Parliament after the elections.
As promised by many parties the next Parliament will be in
most probability deliberating on Constitutional reform. It will
also have to engage in numerous legislations facilitating rapid
development of the country. The need of the hour is a Parliament
equal to these tasks.