Vote at your risk?
Politicians seem to have taken the masses for asses sans an iota of grey matter. President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaking at the opening of a maritime archaeological museum in Galle on Thursday asked the public to ensure that only the good people entered politics. In other words, the President has sought to lay the blame for the heavy presence of misfits in politics at Citizen Perera's doorstep.
True, the people should take their share of the blame for helping the unspeakable go places in politics by voting for them. At the last Local Government polls, they elected a notorious drug dealer in Colombo. Today, he has fled the country in view of anti-narcotics operations. There are many other politicians like him in all parties. Cattle rustlers, contract killers, chain snatchers, rapists, robbers and all sorts of anti-social elements are among those who have been elected to local government bodies, provincial councils and even Parliament.
Is it only the electors who are responsible for this sorry state of affairs?
The scum of the earth cannot enter politics without the blessings of political leaders. They cannot contest elections unless they secure nominations from recognised political parties. Only a handful of them come forward as independent candidates but it is rarely that they succeed at elections. Therefore, political parties and their leaders including President Rajapaksa cannot absolve themselves of the blame for promoting undesirables in politics and nominating them for elections.
President Rajapaksa has also asked people to elect a good team of parliamentarians for him. We are intrigued! This request is tantamount to his admission that some of the ruling party candidates in the fray are not fit to be elected. If his party and other members of the ruling coalition had nominated only good candidates, there would have been no need for him to caution the public.
President Rajapaksa's admonition to the voting public stirs up our memories of an audacious pronouncement by the late President J. R. Jayewardene to the effect that the people were responsible for their security. President Rajapaksa seems to tell the public, "Vote at your risk" a la the vehicle park owners who collect thumping fees while prominently displaying a warning, "Parking at your risk". In business parlance, it is caveat emptor.
Instead of asking the people to elect the best out of a bad lot, party leaders ought to field decent candidates so that they do not have to depend on voters' judgment to have good teams to work with. Their attempt to outsource the sifting of candidates to voters points to a lapse on the part of their nomination boards. They should seriously consider sacking the nomination board members who have failed to select the right people to stand for election!
It behoves political party leaders to block the entry of unsavoury elements into politics at the very source. They should make education, good behaviour etc the criteria for nominations.
It is not being argued that we need rocket scientists or philosophers as our representatives. But, parliamentarians should have at least some basic education. How can they be entrusted with the task of making laws and controlling public finance unless they are capable of reading and understanding legal documents, annual reports etc put out by public institutions?
It will be interesting to know how many of our parliamentarians have read the Constitution.