Bulk of MPs have not had 12 years of schooling
BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI
It is reported that G.C.E Ordinary Level is the highest academic qualification of over 90 Members of Parliament in Sri Lanka. The government is planning to enact 12 years of schooling as a mandate, as it is disgraceful that the ones who are assigned with the duty of passing bills by casting votes have not schooled for 12 years. It is a sad state of affairs that approximately half the members of Parliament do not possess at least the minimum academic qualification required for a white collar job. MPs are the legislators, lobbyists for constituent causes, ombudsmen and advocates of the general public. To execute these responsibilities in a productive manner the elected people are required to be intelligent enough and should possess academic qualifications to an acceptable extent.
Majority of employment in the world requires education qualifications depending on the magnitude of the responsibilities associated with them. There are no academic requirements to become a Member of Parliament in Sri Lanka, albeit, it is the highest authority of the country. Illiterate or less educated populace of the world often tends to solicit employment that requires the application of their physical ability but not the brain. MPs in the Sri Lanka's parliament frequently use their physical and oral ability than their intellect. There are plenty of incidents to show that. This ironically evinces that the country is in the hands of partially edified imbeciles. Although the academic qualifications possessed by them are inadequate, the fringe benefits, fiscal profligacy and other privileges associated with their position are not at all inadequate. It is bewailing to state that even the highly educated scholars in the country cannot enjoy such a luxury that these half- learned men enjoy.
Let alone the academic qualification factor of these MPs, their decorum and integrity are also in question. However, it does not mean that only book smarts can administer the country. A person with a sound scholastic backdrop void of savoir- faire of social situations and day-to-day affairs become catastrophic when resolving public issues. A blend of these two requisites make a dexterous politician who will truly and immensely contribute to the development of the country.
Prof. M.O.A. De Soyza , former Head of Department of Political Science at the University of Peradeniya expressed his views to Ceylon Today with regard to the academic qualifications of politicians.
Excerpts of the interview:
?: What are the impediments in bringing in 'minimum academic qualification' criteria for politicians in Sri Lanka as it is reported that a considerable number of MPs are not academically qualified?
A: The public expect all politicians to have some sort of higher academic qualifications. What hinder candidates who possess sound academic background from entering the field of politics? 'Right to politics' applies to all citizens of Sri Lanka. Hence, it is impossible to impose conditions on candidates who wish to make their foray into the political arena. That is why even the candidates with least academic qualifications enter politics and hold responsible positions in the country.
It contravenes a person's fundamental rights to enter politics if he/ she are not given the opportunity to contest in the elections based on their education qualifications.
?: Well, selecting the right candidates to contest elections lies in the hands of political parties. Why cannot the political parties have a policy to select educated candidates?
A: Yes. It can very well be executed by the political parties. But, the problem is even the politicians who are at the decision making level of political parties are also less educated. It is hard to come across politicians with sound academic background in the leadership hierarchy of political parties.
There are sixty seven registered political parties in Sri Lanka. If you carefully investigate, how many of the heads of the political parties possess university degrees. There are a few to be found.
I believe that political parties have a role to play in this matter. They can consider giving nominations to persons with sound academic background to prevent uncultured and unlearned from entering into the political arena. But, this is hard to accomplish.
?: If the educated people are given nominations, can they win the election?
A: Not all the time. Education and politics are not going hand in hand. On practical grounds, winning elections involve a lot of hard work, deceptions and illusions which learned men may find challenging.
?: If only the educated people are allowed to enter politics and become the rulers of the country, what will the plight of the country be, and can the country be developed?
A: Certainly the country will be lead in the development trajectory if it is ruled by learned men. Education transforms a person and enhances his wisdom and knowledge. It is beyond debate that a learned person is far more wise, talented and able than an illiterate or a person who has not received proper education and that is why educated people are often consulted and advice sought from them.
Changes of thinking pattern, decision making ability and the behaviour occur as a person begins to acquire education. The person is then able to see the world in a broad spectrum. He gains maturity to rule the country.
On the contrary, Sri Lankan history provides evidence of successful politicians who were not highly educated. For instance, S.W.R.D Bandaranaike was a well-educated politician. But, D.S. Senanayake or Sirimavo Bandaranaike was not as educated. But the latter were successful as politicians than the former although they comparatively possessed less academic qualifications.
Those two politicians are highly regarded and acclaimed in the society despite their academic background.
Even if the uneducated come to power, if they are humble enough to admit that they are not learned and ready to receive right guidance from the educated people they can assist the development of the country.
?: Will the book smarts that hardly possess the societal or empirical knowledge too fall flat as politicians?
A: Politicians are policy makers. If they are educated they become clever and better policy makers. When less educated are appointed, they often have to seek assistance from the bureaucracy. Then the bureaucracy will begin to prevail over politicians and that will lead to intricacies. Balanced education and societal knowledge and understanding will produce a good politician who can serve the public in a productive manner for the betterment of the public and the country.
?: Some are of the view that politicians behave in a wild manner before media, just to portray a heroic character. But if the media is kept out of reporting the parliament sessions will they behave in a somewhat refine manner.
A: Behaving in a lunatic manner will damage their image. It is silly to think that by behaving aggressively they can win the hearts of the public. Nowadays, the electronic media broadcasts and telecasts aggressive speeches so that the spectators can have a good laugh at them. Some politicians are very apt in delivering jokes, while some mouth despicable words without any hesitation.
These politicians have wrongly perceived that malignant speech and aggressive behaviour will help them remain in power. This type of behaviour is downright ludicrous and damages the dignity of people's representatives.
?: How can the public be educated to use their voting power more responsibly to elect the suitable candidates to represent them?
A: Media has a role to play in this. Civil organizations can carry out awareness campaigns. Most of the voters are narrow thinkers. They look into the fact that who is more popular, who spends more money in election campaigns etc. Voters also look into caste, religion and the race of politicians. Some voters are matinee worshippers. Voters should be made aware on how to elect the suitable candidates to represent them in the parliament.
?: Do you think the educated politicians are corruption free?
A: No. Corruption is a part and parcel of politics. An educated politician will think twice before engaging in corruption. But less educated will make quick decisions. The educated are often reluctant to engage in what is unlawful and unethical. It does not mean that educated politicians will be hundred per cent corruption free.
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