An exercise in futility | Daily News


An exercise in futility

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka on Tuesday during a campaign event in Colombo asserted that in the next Parliament and thereafter the National List of the United National Front would be exclusively reserved for professionals and intellectuals and out of this 25 percent will be earmarked for women.

This is a very commendable suggestion indeed. All those who have the best interest of the country at heart, no doubt, would endorse the minister’s sentiments in this regard. Sometime ago, President Maithripala Sirisena, too, invited professionals and men and women of standing in society to enter Parliament and be of service to the Nation. No doubt he would have had in mind the immediate post independence Parliaments where men and women of immense wealth, philanthropists and leading figures of society adorned the House and made their contribution to the nation and left poorer for their trouble.

But, in the present backdrop it is only wishful thinking on the part of the President or Minister Ranawaka to entertain hopes that there will be any takers for the offers. For starters, with Parliament being the political quagmire that it has turned out to be in recent times, it is hard to imagine any professional, intellectual or individual of standing, in their right minds, heeding the request of the President or the minister.

They certainly would not want to risk whatever reputations they may have acquired by their professional work by being spoken of in the same breath as the present lot of Parliamentarians. None of these personages would be overly keen to rub shoulders with the many notorious characters in Parliament, leave alone engage in debate with such individuals. They would, no doubt, flinch in revulsion to be in the company of individuals who have allegedly taken to cocaine and other hard drugs in a big way. They may also not want to be identified with these politicos, one third of whom had not passed their GCE (O/L) exam.

These intellectuals and professionals, whom the President had invited or the minister wants to accommodate on the National List with a view to rebuild the country, would not be overly keen to be in the company of those who desecrated the august assembly by such acts as throwing chili powder on fellow Members, hurling objects and missiles at each other, brandishing knives in the Chamber, pouring water on the Speaker’s chair and insulting and abusing the chief custodian of the House in choice Billingsgate and grappling and rolling over each other in all-in wrestling bouts in the Well of Parliament.

For, one can bet that the next Parliament too will see the same old faces responsible for the chaos and mayhem during the post October 26, 2018 scenario, if one were to go by the prominence given on the political stages to these same characters. Hence, the President’s invitation to the more sober sections to take up responsibilities by entering Parliament is bound to fall on deaf ears, at least until there is a complete change in the present political culture that permit the entry of more enlightened members of society into the world of politics.

Leaders of all major political parties, therefore, should take the lead by cleaning the Augean stables, if the President’s wish and Minister Ranawaka’s ambition are to be realized. They could make a start at the next elections by not giving nominations to those whose past records do not stand up to scrutiny. MPs against whom there are pending court cases too should not be treated with favour. Several presidential candidates have also declared that they would not give any ministerial posts to MPs who have corruption or criminal records.

Of course we could be hoping against hope. The status quo is bound to remain the next time around too, for valid reasons, from the point of view of electoral success. The toughies and ‘baddies’ are a sine quo non for most political parties, for their money and muscle power, a sure recipe for vote harvesting. Even at their exit there are the progeny and siblings waiting in the wings to someday fill in the breach when the papas and mamas call it a day. Hence, the vicious cycle is bound to continue.

Besides, any inputs and suggestions from the professionals too may come to naught given that more often than not, decisions taken by Parliament concerning development or other aspects do not see the light of day. It would therefore be a better option for these professionals to remain in their own professions and contribute from the outside.

In any event, the National List could have been availed of to include professionals and intellectuals, the last time around, into seats of Parliament. Instead politicians who were routed at the elections were given preference, for sheer political expediency. At least henceforth the National List ought to be used wisely to enable men and women of learning to enter our national legislature.

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