Nomination of Members of Parliament from the National List after the August 17 Parliamentary election has been the bone of contention these days in many political parties. All Ceylon Makkal Congress of former Minister Rishard Bathiutheen has even suspended the party’s General Secretary Y.L.S. Hameed following his criticism of the party leader for nominating M.H.M. Navavi for the sole National List slot they got.
Former UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha too cites the controversy over the National List nominations of his coalition as one of the reasons for his resignation from the post. However, he may have other stronger reasons as well to step down after the election defeat of the UPFA.
Meanwhile, almost all political parties are being criticized for nominating candidates who had lost at the election, for the National List slots allocated to them. Local election monitoring groups too have expressed their disappointment with the political parties over this. Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE) and Peoples Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) had issued statements criticizing the major political parties, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for such nominations.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had earlier said that the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) would not nominate any defeated candidate to the Parliament through the National List. However the All Ceylon Makkal Congress which contested under UNFGG had gone against this announcement by its nomination of Navavi who was a defeated candidate from the Puttalam District for a National List seat. The JVP which, compared to other parties had a list of professionals and learned men for the national slots, won two seats for themselves, one of which was given to Sunil Handunnetti, a defeated candidate from the Matara District.
The rationale behind the criticism against the nomination of defeated candidates for the National List slots has been that people have rejected those defeated candidates. Also this criticism stems from the absurd notion that people were prudent in using their franchise.
People always make mistakes, at times as a whole while at another individually at elections. They collectively made a glaring blunder at the 1982 referendum for the annulment of Parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in 1984. The documented election violence points to the fact that the referendum was highly fraudulent, but its result had been valid to-date and treated as the people’s verdict. Again it was the people who gave power to the ruling People’s Alliance (PA) at the 1999 Wayamba Provincial Council elections showing utter disregard to the horror that was unleashed against the UNP supporters by the hooligans of the ruling party.
In today’s context voters are driven by various factors real as well as deceptive when they elect parties and individuals as their representatives at elections. A classic example of the working of deceptive factors could be found out by comparing the preferential votes received by two UNP candidates, Party’s Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and actress Upeksha Swarnamali alias Paba at the 2010 General Elections from the Gampaha District. Interestingly the young actress had outdone the veteran politician at her political debut, raising questions about the validity of “people’s verdict.”
This time Premalal Jayasekara, a murder suspect who contested from the Ratnapura District while being in prison bagged over 150,000 “manapes” while former senior ministers from the same party such as John Seneviratne and Pavithra Wanniarachchi were seen far behind him. Seneviratne got only about 90,000 manapes and Wanniarachchi could collect only about half the number that was obtained by Jayasekara. Therefore it goes without saying that there is every chance for the people to defeat qualified candidates while electing fraudsters and thugs at elections. On the other hand, there are no set criteria for the National List candidates. They are no better than the candidates who contested, irrespective of whether the latter were elected or defeated. Initially the National List was meant for the appointment of professionals and learned men to the Parliament and to maintain the proper ethnic ratio in the Parliament. But almost all parties by now have ignored these criteria. Also many National List candidates would have been defeated had they contested at the elections from a district.
The Constitution or any other law has not provided for the methodology of picking up of the best candidates by the party leaders from their National Lists. Candidates are being just selected by the party leaders as they wish, for the National List slots they get. Hence there is no assurance that better candidates would be appointed as MPs when they are selected from the National List rather than selecting instead from the defeated candidates.