Nominations: Ensure quality before quantity - EDITORIAL

21 June 2015 07:39 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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ith the dissolution of Parliament likely soon, perhaps even before the approval of the highly-disputed 20th Amendment, the focus now needs to be on the qualities and characteristics, the integrity and honesty of candidates being nominated – rather than whether the number should be 225, 237 or 255.
President Maithripala Sirisena, pledging repeatedly and also going beyond party politics on vital issues, had been keen that the 20th Amendment outlining electoral reforms should be approved with a two-thirds majority in Parliament before general elections were held. But the United National Party (UNP) dominated Government is insisting that the number of Parliamentary seats should remain at 225, while the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), now split down the middle between the Sirisena loyalists and the Rajapaksa loyalists, wants the number of seats increased to 255.
The President, striking a conciliatory note as he usually does, has proposed 237 seats but the biggest challenge is coming from the leaders of about 25 minority parties and minor parties. They were scheduled to meet President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the weekend to insist that the next general elections be held on the current system, until an independent Delimitation Commission worked out the new electorates.



The UNP is insisting on the immediate dissolution of the Parliament and general elections after that with its Working Committee deciding to appoint a nomination board and hold up party conventions before the polls. Many analysts believe the UNP’s insistence on the number of seats remaining the same has some validity.
We already have 427 Provincial Council members and 4,486 local council members – all paid from public funds and given all sorts of perks and privileges including the licences to get big kickbacks and commissions and indulge in various forms of corruption which were widespread till the historic turn of events on January 8 this year. We have a total of 5,138 elected representatives in Sri Lanka - a ratio of 1 politician per 4,300 citizens. In Australia for instance, where the population of 22 million is almost the same as Sri Lanka’s, though the country is many times as large as ours, the Federal Parliament has only 150 MPs. India, with a population of 1.2 billion has only 545 MPs in its Lok Sabha.




Indications over the weekend were that while the UNP wanted immediate elections, President Sirisena appeared to want to wait till he sorted out the party crisis, where a large number of members were loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for several reasons, which were less virtuous than loyalty.
At a special National Executive Council meeting of the SLFP last Tuesday, President Sirisena agreed to the appointment of a six-member committee in an attempt to bring about reconciliation in the party.
When the committee met him last Friday, President Sirisena stood strong and flatly said that he was not prepared to even give nomination or a National List slot to the former President, though some of his staunch supporters were asking that Mr. Rajapaksa be given the post of Prime Minister if the SLFP won.
The President has reportedly said that if he agreed to give Mr. Rajapaksa the Premier post, the former President would be just one bullet away from regaining the Presidency through the back-door. Instead, President Sirisena has offered to give Mr. Rajapaksa an honorary high post – but as expected, Mr. Rajapaksa has rejected the offer.




President Sirisena has also pointed out that three countries, including the United States, are helping the Sri Lankan Government to dig out hundreds of millions of dollars, allegedly held by some members of the Rajapaksa family in secret bank accounts.
Mr. Sirisena had also said that the former President may face some trouble when the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was revealed in September.
With all these conflicts and with the Venerable Maduluwave Sobitha Thera, along with the Catholic Bishops, calling on the President to take the views of all parties into consideration before the 20th Amendment was approved, a dissolution of Parliament and elections seemed likely soon.
We hope all parties would follow the recommendations of PAFFREL and ensure their nominees had no criminal record-have not been involved in harmful businesses such as narcotics and have not used political power in an arbitrary manner.
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