27 May, 2022


Compulsory Age Of Retirement For Politicians

By Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

Organized employment systems have a set age for retirement. That is but a natural outcome of the basic rules of biological decay. The compulsory age of retirement for public servants is 60. The judicial service has its own limit for retirement which falls a few years later. Even the private sector is governed by a predetermined limit to a service. Of course the self-employed have no such compulsion. They decide when to call it a day intuitively, depending on such factors as physical fitness and returns on investment. In any case, politics is not self-employment. It is supposed to be a service rendered to the nation by public-spirited volunteers. If they mean well, they owe it to their conscience to quit when they are no longer physically fit to do their job satisfactorily, particularly in the presence of thousands, fiddle fit to take on.

Politicians are not governed by retirement limits. Most of them keep returning until they are finally thrown out by the electorate. That happens only after the voters reach the end of their tether. In the meantime, public interest does not receive the optimum benefit from the investment of public funds to keep such hangers on tottering. It was only the other day that Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the Leader of the JVP, remarked that some members of Parliament need the assistance of their colleagues to reach the seats assigned to them. When we joined the public service, in the prime of our youth, we had to submit a certificate of fitness from a qualified doctor but the most decrepit candidate is not called upon to produce an MC with his nomination papers.

SRI LANKA-ELECTIONS-BANDARANAIKEOf course there are politicians who started young but they had not got a proper chance to get involved with the administration of the country, as their Party had been in the opposition for quite a long time. They were not inactive during that period but age has overtaken them by the time they got a chance to govern. It is unfair to write them off now ignoring their past contributions to the Party. But accommodating them at the expense of efficiency is unfair by the people. This dichotomy presents a challenge to political leadership. It is for them to devise a method by which both ends could be served satisfactorily.

The last regime tried to solve the problem by creating a cadre of senior ministers, ostensibly, to accommodate the seniors but the devise did not benefit either the country or the seniors themselves who had to vegetate in a glorified asylum. All members in the pool were not equally old, while there were much older members remaining in the House. Presumably, it was a devise of convenience. The real challenge today is to create space for the veterans to be in the limelight without detriment to the national interest.

This difficulty basically arises from the glorification of the post of minister, through excessive highlighting of the post, adding unlimited power to rule at will. Such power was at the bottom of irregularities for which charges have been since levelled. Perhaps this concentration of power may be relaxed by the current proposal to create inter-Party committees to advise on government activity and to coordinate action. An overage politician who deserves retention may be an asset to these committees with the wealth of his experience. An appropriate position in the new system may be sufficient compensation for the loss of a post in which the recipient cannot perform adequately. The task before leadership is to ensure that such position is not made an appendix overshadowed by ministers who should necessarily be young enough to manage an efficient and effective administration.

The glory attached to a minister arises from two sources. One of them is excessive publicity given to the post under the current system. The proposed committee system may help to diffuse this concentration. The other source is the wide disparity between ordinary MPs and ministers in regard to remuneration, facilities and perks. The ideal would be a uniform system of rewards among all members of Parliament, subject to the provision of minimum facilities for extra services rendered by a particular member. After all, ministers are not paid employees as observed above. They have come forward to render public service. Why then should there be a gap between stipends paid to them and MPs? Surely, no minister will resign on the ground of inadequate remuneration.

However the shoe could pinch at the point of equalization of inputs. According to rules as they are, this revolutionary change has to be made by the very people who may be adversely affected by it. A native proverb admonishes that one should not consult the thief’s mother for a prediction on lost property. How would it be if the thief himself was consulted? For this reason, equality reforms suggested cannot be introduced over the counter.

Phenomenal expenses incurred by contestants at the last election, resulting in the most adverse comment made by international observers, has its roots in the over glorification of positions and their vulnerability to corruption. Fixing an age of retirement for Parliamentarians is yet another problem that cannot be solved by parties affected by the proposed changes. Both of these issues will have to await the much canvassed formulation of a new Constitution where problems would be handled from a national point of view by experts who are not moved by personal interest. For the time being, temporary solutions have to be worked out by the inter-Party consensus that the PM plans to build up in the new Parliament.

There is another matter that needs mention in passing. That pertains to the formation of the new cabinet of ministers, in the background of past experience. Doubtlessly, the ministers appointed ought to be the best talent available in relation to the respective areas. But even such talent has to be overlooked in the public interest, where it becomes necessary to avoid a clash of interests or a temperamental misfit.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Bertrand Russel wrote some 70 years ago that in the US the very magnitude of expenditure at Presidential election drives away the best. US has its expensive nursery as well to bring forth Presidential candidates; Senate and Governorship. These too are $ gobbling.

    Sri Lanka has two tiers or elevens. Provincial Council to launch one to Parliament. Lateral entry too is a path to the first. Want of money drives away the better equipped. The result is plutocracy where wealth reigns. Democracy recedes only to fade away.

    The axe should fall at this root of all evil. Unrestrained use of wealth. Well gotten will not be wasted. The beginning point to cleanse the House is to bring forth stringent laws to restrain electoral expenditure. Unforgiving should be enforcement.

    When well educated with visible powers of intellect and debating ability dominate, the mediocre will move out. The superannuated will realise their limitations and infirmities. Compulsion may not be necessary for the weeding process. This course will take five elections.

    Media now is not confined to print. Internet, TV and social media count for much. They can make or demolish. Politicians thrive in the media and wither when eclipsed. Those who are found redundant can be caricatured out. A maturing SL electorate has sent the less useful out in numbers this time.

  • 0

    I believe there has to be a retirement age for governors of a country. if they couldn’t make a contribution during their time in parliament whether it’s in the ruling party or the opposition, when the time is right they need to give way to the younger generation, who are educated, hard working and have the wisdom and power to make a contribution irrespective of age or seniority. We see the younger MPs making a huge contribution towards making much needed changes, winning the hearts of people and showing much inlelligence and maturity compared to senior parliamentarians.
    In my opinion, it s not the seniority that matters, but the most valuable contribution one makes towards uplifting the nation.

  • 2

    Somapala Gunadheera

    RE: Compulsory Age Of Retirement For Politicians

    Yes. They should learn from our cricketers. Sangakara retired at the top of his game.

    MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa Amana MaRa wants to retire at the bottom of his game…

    No wonder Mara MaRa Chatu MaRa is a re-incarnation of Mara who opposed Buddha..

    Let us All sing Jaya Mangala Gatha in Original Pali…

    Jaya Mangala Gatha-Verses of Auspicious Victory (rare Pali version)-Buddhist Chants.


    Based on the Book of Protection (Paritta Sutta) from the Pali canon, the Jaya Mangala Gatha is sung here in a rare recording by the Mahabodhi Society of India in original Pali. The Jaya Mangala Gatha is a chant recommended by the Buddha to destroy negativity and to generate auspiciousness. It proclaims the 8 major victories of the Buddha which are:

    1) Victory over Mara ( MarRa)
    2) Victory over the demon Alavaka (Wimal)
    3) Victory over the wild elephant Nalagiri (Udu Gamanpila)
    4) Victory over serial killer Angulimala (Gotabaya)
    5) Victory over the evil intentions of Cinca who sought to defame (Pavitra) 6) Victory over the haughty brahmin Saccaka (Vasudeva)
    7) Victory over the serpent king Nandopananda (Susil)
    8) Victory over the false views of Brahma Baka (Yapa)

    There are still many Sinhala Buddhists who are misled by “Sil Redi” MaRa, Mara, Chatu MaRa and his cronies, the Mara Army, who battled Buddha all night long. and lost..

    They need to be guided to the correct path, the middle way…

    Ven. Sobitha Thero said it right. Voting for Crooks and Murders is a Papa Karmayak, that will get you to Apaya, Hell.

    See what the Bikkus were telling the people before the election. Still MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa was able to fool a lot of people by using “Sil Redi”

    [Edited out]

  • 2

    All these villains will agree on a compulsory retirement age so long as it is over 90.

    • 1


      “All these villains will agree on a compulsory retirement age so long as it is over 90.”

      As long as the brain works what is the problem?

      There are many 70-80 year old seniors active on CT. If I manage to do the same I will be proud. Time will tell.

  • 1

    Dimu Jayaratna – oops, I almost typed Kudu Jayaratna, saw vital parts of his physique paralysed and virtually dead. But this great champion of the poor refused to give in and struggled “to serve the people” in his post as PM – which he didn’t deserve by many yardstick, in the first place.

    Personally, I don’t think it is the age that is the criterion but more the physical fitness – to be certified by a competent medical man in Govt. service. Mental fitness, by the way, is a must. Wisdom comes with age and experience. Therefore, it may not be the best idea to impose an age restriction – regardless. But the problem here is we have shameless men like Dimu J in political heights here. And that
    repulsive dictator Mugabe in Zimbabwe – tottering greedily at age 92.


    • 0

      You forgot old Mrs B. The housewife who was elected on sympathy ticket didn’t even want to hand over the reigns to her own daughter after experiencing the power.

  • 1

    It not be till death us do part

    • 0

      weerasinghe upali

      “It not be till death us do part “

      Thank God that there is death to put a “Term Limit” on these politicians.

      A stray bullet may sometimes help speed things up, or a LTTE Fire Cracker.

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