Fighting for national list slots in the Parliament has been reported from two political parties, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by Minister Rauff Hakeem and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) led by Minister Rishad Bathiutheen, both of whom contested under the United National Party (UNP) at the General elections held on August 17 last year. Lobbying by several aspirants for another national list seat vacated by the demise of Deputy Minister M.K.A.D.S.Gunawardene is reported to have begun within the UNP as well.
The controversy emanated from the national list issue in one of these parties, of which the ACMC is already before the Courts. The former General Secretary of the party Y.L.S. Hameed had been sacked by the party leadership after he had allegedly criticized the party leader for nominating a person from Puttalam District for the only national list slot that the party was offered by the UNP following the Parliamentary election. Hameed then legally challenged the decision of the leadership.
The infighting within the SLMC over the two national list seats which were offered by the UNP is far tougher than that in the ACMC. Many people in the SLMC and the National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) that contested in coalition with the SLMC demanded the seats on various grounds that would be favourable to them. Some wanted the seats to be allocated on district basis, some on electorate basis, some as a reward for their support. The SLMC leadership was in an extremely difficult position after the election over this issue and it had to temporarily appoint two of the confidantes of the party leader who were expected to resign when the latter took a decision as to who would be appointed permanently.
One of the two temporary members, Hakeem’s brother Dr. A.R.A. Hafees has resigned last week opening the can of worms again. It is said that the latest decision of the party leadership had disappointed many senior party members.
A number of names, including Democratic Party leader Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and former State Minister Rosy Senanayake are being considered by various media for the vacancy created by M.K.A.D.S.Gunawardene’s death, while the decision of the UNP leadership is yet to be announced.
Since UNP leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is in full control of the party since lately, no ruptures or controversies are expected within the UNP irrespective of whatever decision the party leadership may take.
However, this issue has resurfaced another issue - the merit of people’s representatives elected and appointed to the Parliament, provincial councils and the local government bodies - that was critically discussed by politicians, the civil society and the media before and after the last general election.
With people being extremely fed up with reports on murder, rape, large-scale corruption and various other vices by the so-called people’s representatives during the last regime, a strong public opinion had been created during the last phase of that regime that these representatives should be elected or appointed purely on merit.
On the eve of the last general elections, the Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), the oldest local election monitoring body in the country, had convened a conference of leaders of all political parties to sign a joint pledge on selecting candidates with integrity, competence and merit for future elections. However, when the opportunity came for them to put the pledge into practice, even people in prisons charged for alleged murders, signed nomination papers.
The excuse had been that “Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty”; a theory according to which any offender who had not been convicted could be an MP. Mervyn Silva who was not found guilty of attacks on any media institution or for tying a Samurdhi official to a tree, though the incident was telecast over many TV channels could be appointed in place of M.K.A.D.S.Gunawardene under this theory.
The civil society and concerned politicians should not allow this serious matter -- the merit of people’s representatives which is vital in respect of good governance -- to be swept under the rug. All parties concerned should take it up during the proposed consultations with regard to the new Constitution that the government is trying to introduce.
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