Only a Popularly Elected person should be appointed as the Prime Minister. A Point of view.
Posted on April 13th, 2010

Dr Sudath Gunasekara President Senior Citizens Movement Mahanuwara

14. 4. 2010
Now the elections are over the appointment of the Prime Minister appears to have come to the forefront of the political stage. The President by now might have already made his choice. In that case this note will be utterly irrelevant. Nevertheless assuming that it has not been finalized as yet the following ideas may provide some food for thought.

Although the post of the Prime Minister is only a glass bead under the present constitution still it seems to be an ornament on the head of the person who wears it. The beholders too see it as a feather on the bearer’s crown.  Prior to 1978 the PM was elected by the people. He was the Head of the party that comes in to power.  But with the introduction of the new Presidential system it became a mere ornament for the holder often given to him at the discretion of the President He is neither the head of the government nor the primus inter-pares as it was used to b earlier, going by the British tradition.

Under the present constitution he is appointed by the President at his discretion and could be removed at any time by the President when ever he wishes to do so. But apart from the constitutional privilege of succeeding the President in the event of his removal or death the post of Prime Minister even now carries a certain exalted image in the eyes of the general public. In Parliament the Prime Minister almost deputize the President as the latter is not present inside the House in normal times. Also in the international circles it matters a lot as to who the Prime Minister is, since the PM is regarded as the de facto deputy of the President by the outside world. To that extent it carries a certain weight both in the public eye and the political scenario both at home and abroad. Therefore who is appointed as the PM still has some relevance and importance in Sri Lankan politics.

 In a democratic society usually an elected person is appointed as the Prime Minister. Even in this country the last PM was and elected person which automatically made him answerable to the people as well. If an unelected person, say for example a person from the national list in the case of the present Parliament is appointed to this post the principle of representative democracy gets nullified. Such person in our system will be responsible only to the President as his survival depends entirely in the Presidents hand. Appointment of National list member also devalues and degrades the post of the PM. In fact the National list is a big joke. It is explicitly included in the Constitution to enable political parties to bring in their favourites to Parliament through the back door. When you look at the past lists, other than Luxman Kadiragamar, I don’t think any one who had been brought in through this list had served any other purpose. The other thing is as there are already 196 elected through the ballot, some of whom again walk in as bonus MPP, which itself is undemocratic and unethical, I do not think there is any need for another 29 MPP who only has become an additional burden to the tax payers.

 Already many aspirants to the post of PM had begun to air out heir claims and grievances. Some people appear to claim seniority and age etc as their qualification over others for this post. It is a pity that these so-called “ƒ”¹…”veterans’ have failed to realize that age and long years of being in the party alone are not the criteria called for this post. In fact it is high time that most of these people should retire from politics. If they don’t the best thing what the President can do is to send them to a home for the aged. 

 Those qualifications mentioned by them, if the President considers them to be indispensable, may be good for such persons to be appointed as the speaker but certainly not as the Prime Minister. In fact old age should be a disqualification for this position as we need a dynamic and a relatively young person to handle the responsibilities particularly at a time speedy delivery of services is needed to accomplish the development goals of the government.

Some aspirants appear to publicly say that the whole country wants them as the next PM. I don’t think the people of this country are so mad as yet to wish such aging people who have not made any significant contribution in their long years of aging in politics. What we need is a strong personality who could command the House and win the respect and regard of both the government group as well as the members of the opposition. As I already mentioned earlier his stature in the international forum at this time is very crucial. He represents the government and the country when he goes to the outside world. His stature and performance at international forums goes a long way in building up the image of the country. Senile mediocre politicians who have very little in their upstairs can never fit in to this prestigious slot. The worst is almost all these persons whose names appear in the National list are people who would never have won at an election. That perhaps is the main reason why the president has included the names of these ex-politicians in this list. The President perhaps knew more than any other that they are not vote pullers any more, may be due to their age, unpopularity or inefficiency. That is why the president went in for people like Jayasooriya and Geetha. In the light of this background I wonder why this type of people should be kept in active politics at all when they have clearly ceased to be active.

  I do not think the present President will do the same mistake which Premadasa did by ignoring men like Alulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayaka who’s brilliant and dynamic services the country lost as a result. That was indeed a very high cost the country had to pay at the vanity of one man. Appointing a PM is also handpicking a future national leader. How can persons whose faculties have ceased to function become future national leaders?

The need of the hour is a comparatively young, dynamic, intelligent commanding personality who could meet both domestic and foreign requirements and win the regard and respect of all political parties in the House and all communities. Only such a person could be an asset without being a liability to the President as well as the country. Definitely he should be a popularly elected person. Only a promising representative of the people can ensure a promising future for the country.

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