THE REJECT SHOPS BRAIN DRAIN AND THE NATIONAL LISTS
Posted on August 27th, 2015

By M.L.Wickramasinghe

The current arguments that are doing the rounds in high society in Colombo and among simple folks in rural villages as well as in the mass media on the propriety of nominating losing candidates into the National List reminded me of the Reject Shops in England. According to the Cambridge Dictionary- a Reject Shop is a shop that sells damaged or not so perfect goods at a lower price. The Reject Shops have their own client segments and generally are run as paying concerns. In the seventies, post-graduate students living on stipends used the Reject Shop to buy warm clothing etc on the cheap. This way they had no qualms about discarding the items after limited use.

It is reported that all political parties have decided to appoint defeated candidates to the National List (NL) with the UNP apportioning less than 10 % of the vacancies in the NL to defeated candidates. In the circumstances this is an exemplary situation; the party leadership should be commended for reducing the chances of defeated candidates invading the NL. The TNA apparently has decided to fill 100% of the List with defeated candidates (02numbers) and JVP with 50 % (01 number). It is said that SLFP would be directly appointing the highest number of defeated candidates through the NL to the Parliament, perhaps 07 in number, working out to about 60 percentage points.

The introduction of the ‘National List’ was one of the more acceptable features of the 1978 Constitution, and related election laws. Although the eligibility criteria were not legislated, the expectation of the framers of the National List was to provide a pathway for professionals, academics, and other eminent persons etc who have made positive contributions through their specialized fields to the development and progress of the country, to enter Parliament. These people are not used to the hustle and bustle of the electoral processes. They do not nurture electorates or voters or provide them with ‘goodies’ with the objective of entering Parliament. Their training, ways of doing things, and professionalism do not allow them to make untenable promises to gain popular appeal with the motive of obtaining huge numbers of votes required to enter Parliament. Most of them are not cut out for competitive and at times aggressive political campaigning. However, they can offer creative, technically correct, and balanced ideas to the particular political party they are members of as well as to the Parliament and the people as a whole. They could also contribute to improving the capacities of the run of the mill politicians who enter parliament due to popularity; review policies and Bills of national significance comparatively impartially, due to their inane  ability  to assign a lower value to pure political party considerations. The Country and the People would really profit by such practices.

In this regard it should also be mentioned to the credit of the career politicians that the outgoing Parliament also had a quota of high calibre career politicians who had the required skills, and applied them in the national interest.  Therefore it is the existence of a mix of more independent high caliber National List MPs, and the limited number of high calibre elected MPs that would really help in raising the intellectual bar in the Parliament. It is prudent for all leaders to take steps to continue to increase the numbers of such a mixed high-calibre group, as it would contribute to improving quality of debates and good governance practices in the Parliament.

However, with the decision to accommodate defeated candidates in the National List, the space available for academics, professionals and other eminent persons to enter Parliament will be drastically curtailed. This is a real cause for concern as the new Parliament will be challenged to the utmost as issues such as war crimes investigation, national reconciliation, demand for greater political devolution, concerns for national security, weighing foreign policy options as USA and India on one side, and China and Russia on the other jockey for geo- political/economic/strategic relationships in Asia and the Indian Ocean region, developing a national economic and agricultural policy, employment generation etc. The policy, legislative, and resource recommendations in thematic areas that are primarily of long-term national significance would profit by the more measured, deep and reasonable thinking of high caliber National List MPs than the partisan political or ethnicity-focused thinking of the elected MPs who are directly beholden to the respective compartmentalized constituencies that elected them.

We should not forget that today more than in any era of global development, ‘knowledge; research and development; and personal and intellectual integrity’ play a central role in economic and social development. Therefore the Parliament and the Cabinet should be adequately represented by persons of good academic and professional background combined with financial and intellectual integrity. It is in this context that ex-MPs such as Professor G. L. Peiris, Professor Tissa Vitharana, Professor Rajiv Wijesinghe, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, and Mr. D.E.W. Gunasekera are considered to be important. The first four have unimpeachable academic credentials, wide national and international experience, and financial, personal and intellectual integrity. Mr. Gunasekera is a highly respected professional and politician, with unmatched knowledge and experience in parliamentary affairs, and of the highest financial, personal and intellectual integrity. (There may be a few others of high calibre whom we have missed out on, and apologies to them)

The National List therefore should not be pruned drastically. If there are a higher number of slots available in the National List, it would facilitate some academicians and professionals to enter Parliament for the first time. It is vital that we especially to retain those high caliber National List MPS who were already in the Parliament. They possess excellent academic and or professional credentials, long years of parliamentary experience, and deep knowledge about the issues that would come to the fore in the new Parliament.  The respective Party leaderships should therefore protect the National Lists as much as possible.

The country is trying to reduce the brain drain of Sri Lankan professionals to overseas markets; Sri Lanka is also actively calling upon the professionals who went abroad for greener pastures to return to serve the country. We seem to be giving mixed signals to those Sri Lankan expatriates who are being wooed to return, by axing even the limited number of academicians, professionals, and eminent persons who already served the out-going Parliament.

4 Responses to “THE REJECT SHOPS BRAIN DRAIN AND THE NATIONAL LISTS”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Now the entire parliament is a CROOKED place full of crooks. It is a place for intellectuals to AVOID.

  2. sena Says:

    “The country is trying to reduce the brain drain of Sri Lankan professionals to overseas markets” For what?
    Let us see. We have had public funded higher education for about 70 years. Seventy years earlier our dollar income was from the three crops. Now after 70 years, We have added garments, blue collar expatriate workers (including women as housemaids) and foreign loans. So where is the payback for people investment in higher education. Instead what the professionals in Sri Lanka have done is depending on the productivity of blue collar workers while giving them a raw deal. Bloated government sector is one example where professionals languish without doing much. Do we pay a decent price for the produce of our farmers. The prices are purposely kept low keeping them in perpetual poverty

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    LORENZO !! FULLY AGREE. I WILL CALL THEM KATUSSAS, WHO CHANGE COLOUR, AND FROGS…GEMBAS, THAT JUMP FROM THIS SIDE TO THAT SIDE AND THAT SIDE TO THIS SIDE, DEPENDING ON THEIR MEAL.

  4. Independent Says:

    How about Upasaka Puusas who visit temples so often but kills people ?

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