Another bombshell in the form of a proposed pay hike for MPs has jolted the tax payer. more fittingly it could be called as ‘bombshell’ because it is coming hot on the heels of the Govt. imposing a variety of indirect and direct taxes on the people through the recent budget and ubiquitous Gazette notifications. It adds insult to injury when Parliament itself is debating the issue of providing leased-out second vehicles to MPs who are doing ‘so-called’ development work in their electorates. It looks like the ‘Yahapalanaya’ Govt. is in its element and trying to win the votes of the MPs by offering them indirect ‘kick-backs’ in public or is it a ruse to increase their pensions? What an irony?
In pure and simple terms, why should the taxpayer be burdened to perpetuate a so-called ‘decentralised political administration’ system where the MPs at the centre have usurped the role of Provincial Councillors and local Govt. politicians to safe guard their ‘preference votes’? As a remedy to this sad and unfortunate situation, and at a time when the Constitutional Reforms are on the clipboard, I wish to renew my recommendations on electoral reforms presented to the Public Committee on Constitutional Reforms in January 2016 as follows.
1) Given a decentralized political administration system of Governance, it is imperative to rationalize the no. of MPs (225) after a proper work-study based on well-defined objectives and role responsibilities. At the outset, considering the enormous expenditure spent on maintaining the legislature, by way of salaries, allowances and other perks, the existing number of 225 MPs is an unproductive assemblage.
2) In accordance with the recommendations of the aforesaid work-study, lay down new role responsibilities and limits for the respective layers in the Pyramid viz. Parliament, PCs and PSs. It would be seen that there is a need to reduce the role-responsibilities and powers of MPs who should mainly function as ‘law-makers’ or ‘legislators’ and transfer them to the PCs and PSs. This would justify a huge reduction in the current cost of vehicle and transport needs of MPs.
3) MPs’ salaries and perks should be recommended by an Independent Committee of experts using the recommendations of the aforesaid work study. If this happened before, the tax-payer would have saved the enormous financial burdens arising from the present guarantee of 5-year pension and duty-free vehicles for MPs involving drain of valuable foreign exchange. MPs deciding to increase their own Salaries and perks at will, is tantamount to a ‘conflict of interest’ and not ethical in the eyes of the people who voted them to power.
4) Since, with the abolition of the ‘preference voting (PV) system, there is no need for national level MPs to collect preference votes, why should they be allocated with ‘decentralized funds’ to develop electorates? On the contrary, they can supervise the usage and recommend the allocation and release of decentralized funds to the lower layers of Provincial Councils (PC) and Pradeshiya Sabhas (PS) through the existing District
5) PSs should be depoliticized allowing the people to elect the most acceptable/respectable persons with high integrity in the locality. Such people only could be groomed to enter Parliament.
6) Reforms needed for the general election process
a) The most critical and primary need at a National election process is to determine the winner through the No. of seats won by each party/alliance out of a specified No. of seats in Parliament.
b) Next is the less critical geographical allocation of seats won by each party/alliance to Parliament. It could be proportionately done based on district-wise No. of votes mustered by each party/alliance.
c) Thereafter, nominating individuals to each such allocated seat within each district can be done based on district-wise nomination lists publicized by each party/alliance. Presently, this list is furnished in the alphabetical order to cover 196 seats. With the abolition of the much condemned PV system and for good –Governance and logical purposes, this list needs to be seen by the voter in the order of merit so that he would get an idea of the calibre and the quality of the persons who are likely to represent him in the National Parliament. The real objective of the ‘national list ‘(29) too can be achieved by including those nominations also in the district lists so that there would be one-master nomination list of professionals by each party/alliance appearing separately under 22 districts. This would lead to the abolition of the ‘preference-voting’ mechanism and the sole responsibility of selecting professional nominees in merit order will devolve on the respective parties/alliances and not on the voter. Also, since the ballot paper would carry only party/alliance symbols, the elections department. would have less work and the counting process would be very quick enabling the people to know all the results before midnight!
7) In a modern representative democracy, the voter has to rely on political parties as corporate bodies with ability to produce powerful manifestos and pragmatic action plans for the party/alliance as well as possessing the clout to select and deal with its nominees under a well-designed system of ‘Good Governance and transparent mechanisms.
8) Since the ‘election manifesto’ becomes a critical document for voters’ decision, it has to be made a legally enforceable document.
9) To reach zenith of ‘Good-Governance‘ process, apply PR arithmetic to allocate Cabinet portfolios the number of which (30) is already specified by Constitution, so that all seat winning parties would be represented in the Cabinet.
10) The present provision for Parliament to increase the No. of Cabinet portfolios at will, should be replaced with a specific limit of say + or - 5% of the constitutionally specified number which presently stands at 30.
11) Last, but not the least, ‘Good Governance’ demands that the President acts as a ‘Statesman’ cum ‘Caretaker ‘ of the people devoid of political hues, ethnicity and religion.
For some power-hungry and corrupt politicians, for whom the country ranks below self and party, the above measures elicit a ‘paradigm shift’ in their approach and attitudes. However, it would be seen that all the aforesaid measures if implemented in an unbiased, good spirit, would reduce unnecessary waste of money, time, material and energy by the people leading to increases in productivity and professionalism, allowing the country to develop in harmony without ‘confrontational politics’ and ‘stability issues’ in a
Finally, I reiterate that 90% of the issues ailing the present electoral system, if addressed in the above mentioned manner, would disappear with the simple abolition of the already optional PV system through an Amendment to the Constitution.