Policies and laws are key in any developing nation - Prof. Charitha Herath | Sunday Observer

Policies and laws are key in any developing nation - Prof. Charitha Herath

- Prof. Charitha Herath
- Prof. Charitha Herath

Former Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information during 2012-2015, Prof. Charitha Herath is a leading scholar in Sri Lanka in the field of philosophy.

Currently, he has invested his time in active politics, hoping to contest a Parliament seat from the Kurunegala district. Here are excerpts of an interview with the Professor about the current political climate and his political plans.

Q. A General Election is looming and all political parties and candidates are getting ready for it. But don’t you think, that people are fed up with elections and broken promises?

A. I think people are disillusioned due to the way politicians have acted in our country for so many years. They should deliver something tangible for the benefit of people. Now, people are realise that some politicians are just trying to get power for their benefit instead.

I think due to this particular reason and the lack of professionals in the political system, the system became very limited and less productive for the people and the process of development in the country.

Thist is why the people are criticising the present way of governance. But this should be rectified by giving a different kind of group the responsibility of policy making.

Q. Do you believe that sending professionals or well-educated people to the legislature, would bring about a magical transformation?

A. They cannot do magic. But they will be able to identify their job properly. They would be able to engage in policy making issues productively and proactively. For instance, we do not have a good set of policies and laws in certain sectors. Policies and laws are key in any developing nation and even for developed nations.

The United States is much bigger and and more developed than us due to the policies implemented by them. We are poor and weak because our choice of policymakers are not up to the standard.

Elected representatives who are in Parliament and other relevant authorities have not been able to deliver the expected results.

At times, they do not develop good policies at all.

For example, the last government headed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe was an utter mess. They were giving a thousand talks but not delivering even 10 per cent of what they were preaching and promising. That was the nature of politics in this country sometimes.

Q. Are you suggesting that we should send people with knowledge on political science to the Parliament?

A. No. I do not say that we should elect political scientists to the Parliament. But professionalism should be the main feature of policymakers.

It is true, that I have been teaching at universities for the past 25 years and I have a doctorate. But those are different factors. What I feel is that you should get a group of people who are committed to what they are doing.

Now, the problem of this Parliament is that parliamentarians themselves are not serious about what they are doing. They are serious about many other things including welfare and development activities. But they are not serious about policies that they are supposed to make and revise. In other words, they have not understood the Terms of Reference (TOR) for their job.

Q. In the recent past you were seen more often in the Kurunegala district. Are you hoping to contest the upcoming General Election?

A. I am now free and have a political right as a university lecturer. I am going to contest from the Kurunegala district as Kuliyapitiya is my home town. In the recent past, I have learnt that the people’s way of looking at issues is very proactive and advanced now. They understand the nature and character of politicians. Thus, they are in a position to change the system by placing new faces in Parliament.

Q. Kurunegala is recognised as a villager vote base. Being an academic and speaking about policy changes could make it a challenge for you to find votes in an area like it. Your comment?

A. In Kurunegala, there is quite a good number of people who are well educated. The other thing is that I have my rural base as well. Many of my friends and relatives are there.

Also, Kurunegala is one of the major developing districts and I do not see any threats in contesting from there.

Q. Sri Lankans have seen many politicians speak very highly about new policies they want to introduce when they come to power. But most of them begin studying policies only when they grab the power which ultimately bars implementing any policies during their tenure of power. How can this be different for you?

A. If you talk about a couple of areas such as telecommunication and environment, I have been in the policy making, policy discussion and in implementation arms for approximately the last 15 years.

Thus, we are not going to start thinking only once we come into power. We have all the plans ready. Therefore, from day one, we will be able to deliver.

Q. Media Freedom was one of the key slogans the anti-Rajapaksa movement used towin power in 2015, while you were the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Communication. What happened?

A. When we were having battlegrounds in the North and the East, our media and lives were in danger. But after 2010, the media was not in difficulty, even though there was criticism against us. After I became the secretary of media, no incident occurred throughout my tenure.

Those days we focused on development-oriented journalism in this country. Democracy oriented criticism was developing from the other end.

We engaged more in development areas than democratic reformations. That was the issue we faced in 2015. The opposition wielded the democratic arguments powerfully against us.

Though we had developed the country, the democratic argument was raised against us saying that we do not allow them to speak as they wish. Even though that argument was wrong, the people accepted it as the truth.

That is why we lost power in 2015. But the new government knows that we should allow both development and democratic media activities.

Q. This government came into power with an upsurge of Sinhala-Buddhist votes. How do you see the Government using that power to develop the country without discriminating against the minority communities?

A. We are not attempting to win power, by using one community. Sadly, the UNP and some NGOs tarnished our image by showing that we are not minority friendly people. But we are trying our best to show the minority communities that it was not correct. We respect the national heritage of this country, mainly Buddhism.

Pali Buddhism is practised only in our country and that is a very important achievement we have. At the same time, we are working with many other minorities. We will rectify the misinformation campaign against us and will engage in minority politics in the future government.