‘Office is not inherited in a democracy’
Belonging to a political family is not enough
to ensure success in politics. In a democracy, representatives are
elected and one does not inherit office through succession, said
Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa participating as an invited panelist at
the prestigious India Today Conclave 2012 in New Delhi held on March 16
and 17. He was the leading speaker at the session entitled Is Dynasty a
Burden or Boon?
The Conclave held annually has seen the
participation of leading Indian and international personalities such as
former Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Union Minister Pranab
Mukherjee, former US Vice-President and Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore,
Mohamed ElBaradei, Sarah Palin, Dominique De Villepin and Bollywood
actor Shah Rukh Khan.
The theme of this year’s Conclave was Asian
Century: Securing the Global Promise. Former US Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger made the keynote address on The Making of an Asian Century.
The text of the speech:
“Its a pleasure for me to participate in this prestigious India Today
Conclave. Thank you for giving me the honour of being a part of this
Much has been spoken at this Conclave and elsewhere about the Asian
Namal Rajapaksa MP
Policymakers, academics, the media and experts in their respective
fields continue to dwell at length on whether the 21st century will be
dominated by Asian politics and culture, and as to how leadership can be
given to achieve such an outcome for the benefit of our region.
It is in this context that this panel has been tasked with
deliberating on the topic of whether, Dynasty is a Burden or a Boon in
South Asia, a region which has a vital role to play in the unfolding
We need to focus our attention to this subject from another
perspective as well, that is the unfolding Asian Century. Asia has
emerged as a global power house. The advanced economies no longer look
at Asia as poverty stricken land with famine and misery. Further, the
leading economies in the world today are geographically concentrated in
I come from a country which suffered immensely from brutal terrorism
for nearly three decades. The sufferings undergone by our people cannot
be quantified. Although my country was one of the pioneering Asian
economies in removing barriers to global trade, investment and finance,
in order to become a vibrant global partner in economic development, it
could not exploit its full potential owing to terrorism that crippled
our social fabric and economic fundamentals.
Since November 2005, my country under the visionary leadership of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who hails from a deep rooted, politically
and culturally rich family, with an affiliation to political activism in
human rights, trade unions, and rural farmers embarked on an economic
development strategy, laying a foundation for rapid development within
the global framework. Today, 7 years after President Rajapaksas assuming
office, Sri Lanka enjoys a relatively sophisticated all island
infrastructure network. This has been possible, primarily due to the
ending of the 30 year long conflict under his administration. This has
enabled him to unify the country on a single platform theme, that is,
rapid inclusive development along with equal access to development
opportunities in the country.
His administration has paved the way for people to be able to express
their views in a free and democratic Sri Lanka. His government has
resettled almost all displaced people with adequate livelihood support.
The Government of India among other bilateral and multilateral
development partners, played a pivotal role in this effort by extending
generous support for infrastructure development and resettlement
initiatives in the affected areas.
Sri Lanka has witnessed over 8 percent growth for two consecutive
years, following a 6 percent annual growth over the first 5 year period
ending 2009 and remains buoyant for the third consecutive year, despite
global economic uncertainties.
All economic fundamentals remain favourable. Food security has been
ensured with the country being able to generate a surplus rice
production. Highest priority has been accorded to promote energy
security as well. It has embarked on a rapid development process in
export production of goods and services.
Complementing the key sectors in the economy, country's comparative
advantage in the port and aviation sectors is being fully exploited with
the development of new ports and airports in the South of the country,
while also developing other ports and airports in the country to ensure
global connectivity in trade, aviation and tourism.
Overall, the development strategy of Sri Lanka aims at raising the
country's per capita income to around US $ 5,000 by 2016.
Despite all economic fundamentals shifting in favour of Asia, our
countries are unique in one sense.
We all have a long standing culture and traditional values. The
transformation towards a modern world must be navigated while preserving
of two fundamental principles. One is the preservation of our culture,
traditions and the value system, which will nurture us in a multiple
framework with mutual respect, care, love and compassion. The other is
the conservation of our environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am the youngest parliamentarian in the
Parliament elected in 2010. I am proud of this achievement for another
reason - my father too was the youngest Member in the 1970 Parliament of
Sri Lanka and also a lawyer like myself. Coincidentally, a cousin of my
father had also been the youngest to enter parliament in his time.
Before my father, my grand-father and his brother and his children
too had entered Parliament beginning their public service from as far
back as 1936. In that sense, I represent the third generation of
politicians of the Rajapaksas. Friends, All of us have had to contest in
highly competitive elections to enter Parliament.
I am also proud that I have entered politics in an era that my
country enjoys expressways, aviation and port hubs, IT based activities,
buoyant tourism, new generation banking and finance and a strong
construction industry, providing support for growth.
Our country envisages a Sports Economy and a Knowledge Based Economy,
reflecting synergies of new aspirations of my generation.
I believe that the distinguished panelists would agree that one's
success or failure in politics in a democracy, where regular elections
are held, depends largely on how one chooses to chart ones own course.
Merely belonging to a political family will not ensure that one would
succeed in politics continuously, especially in the present context of
an active media, and an even more active civil society.
Democracy, as you all know, is a form of governance with specific
institutions and a state governed by elected representatives. A dynasty,
in contrast, typically denotes a series of rulers who belong to the same
family or a succession of powerful people from the same family according
to rules of that family.
In a functioning democracy, representatives are elected by the vote
of the people and for specific terms. Therefore, merely by belonging to
a family of politicians, one does not inherit office through succession.
One of the common benefits of being a part of a political family,
although short lived, is the comparative ease, perhaps, of being able to
receive nomination from a party to contest elections. But the reason I
say that this is a short lived benefit is because although one may win
an election the first time around, there is absolutely no guarantee of
re-election. The decision lies in the hands of the people.
As a young person I felt strongly and passionately that as a member
of a political family, I could play a useful, important and meaningful
role in giving voice to the youth of our country; to revive their
dreams; engage in nation building; and in healing our fractured land.
I want to see the youth of my country rise to rebuild our nation; and
to strengthen institutions that are essential for democracy, that have
become weak as a result of conflict.
Our dream is to see the youth of our country strive towards
excellence in all fields and demand no less than the best from its
public service. This window of opportunity must be seized by our youth
to take the country onto a different path; to build a Nation that is
robust and resilient.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion, let me reiterate the theme of
this India Today Conclave, An Asian Century, securing the global
We in Sri Lanka are gearing for this century, a century of promise
for our new generations. The gratitude we could show our parents and
grandparents, for sacrifices made during their lifetimes is to preserve
our heritage, culture, value system and environment.
I hope this conclave will propagate the new vision of Asia for
greater collaboration, partnership and unity.”