Last Sunday this newspaper reported the views of school principals, teachers and students who expressed their displeasure (to understate it) at the postponement of the GCE A/Level examination because of the impending parliamentary election. Their views are understandable, especially the criticisms of those due to sit the examination. They believe — and who are we [...]


Our MPs already have an advanced level, no?


Last Sunday this newspaper reported the views of school principals, teachers and students who expressed their displeasure (to understate it) at the postponement of the GCE A/Level examination because of the impending parliamentary election.

Their views are understandable, especially the criticisms of those due to sit the examination. They believe — and who are we to contradict them — that the momentum they had built up and the planning that went ahead have now been badly and sadly undermined by an election that would return lawmakers many of them with as much respect for education and knowledge as a monkey loosed in a well-stocked library.

When the names of our aspiring MPs are known shortly, the public would know the quality of the persons who will be legislating on their behalf in the coming years, for a shorter period than previous parliaments, thanks to the 19th Amendment.

Whether the elections should have been held earlier at the butt end of the now infamous 100-day programme as promised or delayed to paper over fissures in party politics or even to allow changes to the electoral system, will be debated till the cows — or other four-legged ones — come home.
But for those whose pursuit of educational targets have been interrupted or even disrupted, it would matter little which set of two-legged ones come to reside at Diyawanna Oya for the next few years. For what concerns them right now is how successfully they could overcome this unexpected interruption that could have serious effects on their desire to progress further with tertiary education.

This examination is surely a critical point for those who wish to enter university or to progress to other fields of academic endeavour so necessary to open the doors to employment and probably a decent job. That is unless one is a close relative or crony of a powerful politician which is a sufficient “open sesame” to some lucrative position in a state corporation or other state institution.

The lack of consideration displayed by our political class for those who are striving to acquire a higher education is not at all surprising. After all one does not need any educational qualifications to contest parliamentary or provincial council elections and be elected as a legislator.
It must come as sheer irony to students struggling with a critical examination to read recent reports citing the head of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board who had revealed that of the 225 MPs in the recently dissolved parliament 95 had failed the GCE O/Level and 145 had not passed the GCE A/L.

It is scant wonder that many legislators appear to have little regard for education or those with an education and have the temerity to sit on the Parliamentary High Posts Committee or the Constitutional Council examining the credentials and perhaps questioning the legitimacy of a candidate way above their station.

It is interesting to note that the 1997 Constitution of Thailand laid down that candidates seeking election to the State Assembly need a minimum qualification of a university degree and the 2007 Constitution introduced by the ruling military regime called for a minimum five consecutive years at an educational institution besides other requirements such as contesting only from the region where one was born and had contributed to its public life.

Candidates were also required, if I remember correctly, to own a house. This last qualification would not, of course, be a hurdle to many of our legislators who have during their term in office acquired more than one abode, often of luxurious proportions.

This is not to say that all parliamentarians must acquire educational qualifications that would better equip them for the tasks ahead. While such qualifications might provide them with useful knowledge and understanding to make worthwhile contributions to parliamentary debate, it is not necessarily going to turn them into honest and upright MPs.

As Oliver Cromwell once said a few honest men are better than numbers.

Having listened to or read some of the contributions made to parliamentary discussion and debate by MPs in recent years and the sheer idiocy that has percolated through some of them one wonders when and how the rot set in.

Having listened to debates in the old parliament by the sea from my school days and associated with MPs from 1962 when I first came into journalism one has nostalgic memories. If only one can engage the reverse mode and return to the days when MPs of learning contributed a wealth of knowledge and one returned at the end of the day intellectually richer and with deeper understanding of subjects that seemed abstruse or unintelligible.

If the public in general has little respect for politicians today and have lost faith in those they believed in, it is because the past and the present are replete with failed promises.

One has only to read or listen to public comments in recent days to realise that the initial hope they had that accountable and clean government would replace what was perceived as a corrupt and nepotistic administration has been followed by a crushing let down.

There will doubtless be intense discussions and debates on who let whom down, what happened to yahapalanaya and the pre-presidential election pledges to bring good governance to the fore and deal with single-minded purpose against those who were said to have appropriated benefits for themselves and their families and expropriated state assets for self-aggrandisement and that of their progeny.

But in the post-election process of establishing the promised pledge of a high moral code in governance and the eschewing of previous practices that were said to have gaily abandoned respected principles, there appears to have been many a slip between the cup (or should it be champagne glass?) and lip.

After the pre-presidential election days when an expectant public were subject to moral intoxication and immersed themselves in an almost messianic movement to rescue the country from what was perceived as a continuing slide into authoritarianism, the citizenry expected the fulfillment of the promises they were made to believe in.

The moral high ground from which the leaders of a minority government sermonised has slipped away as the controversial nepotism of previous times was replaced with a fresh varnish of cronyism that sees friends and relatives installed in positions of influence.
There was a wave of support-judging by the number of political parties and civil society organisations that came together — for a new political culture that would wipe the slate clean and give Sri Lanka a start afresh.

That was the intention of those who came together and now drifting apart. But good intentions can never be a substitute for good management.
Some thought that a defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa will return to Medamulana and like Achilles remain sulking in his tent.
But his bulldozing re-entry into central politics with the intention of playing the role of a prime minister with enhanced powers has set the cat among a lot of frightened pigeons with clipped wings.

By the way it is false to say our MPs of not so long ago do not have A/ levels. They do. That is if ‘A’ denotes Arrogance.

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