With legal issues being cleared, the Local Council Elections are now likely to be held in February with the possible date being February 10. Earlier the Elections Department had planned to hold elections to 90 councils because of a legal problem over the others and an interim stay order being issued by the Court of Appeal.
Now the Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya has said elections would be held on the same day to all 341 Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas.
Significantly, for the first time, the elections are being held on a mixed system with 60% of the candidates being elected on the First-Past-the-Post system to a particular ward and the others on the Proportional Representation (PR) System. There will be no Manape or preference votes.
Another significant feature is that 25% of the seats are being reserved for women and we hope that they will play a much more dynamic role in leadership because, without the typical feminine characteristics, leadership will lack vital qualities, including integrity and honesty.
Sri Lanka produced the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimovo Bandaranaike, and her daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, despite regular clashes with the mother and went on to become Sri Lanka’s first woman Executive President.
Up to now, most women have come into politics mainly through family political connections. We hope that in future women intellectuals and rural women with leadership qualities will be encouraged to come into Local Government and national politics.
On the party political side, reports say a dead end has been reached in the reconciliation talks between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Joint Opposition (JO) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to reports, President Maithripala Sirisena had earlier given his blessings to the unity talks initiated by senior SLFP members. But the talks have collapsed with the SLFP now deciding to go it alone under the hand symbol or the betel leaf symbol. The Rajapaksa faction has formed a new Sri Lanka Podujana Party with its front-liner Basil Rajapaksa claiming the new party and its allies could win up to 200 councils.
President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with the intention of working together at least till 2020 and perhaps till the economic goals of Vision 2025 are achieved, have held talks to strengthen ties between the two main parties. For instance, Mr. Wickremesinghe has told UNPers not to be critical of the President.
The UNP and the SLFP have differences over some major economic issues – the Hambantota Port Project, the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms and the liberalisation of the marine industry.
More consultations, compromises and consensus on these issues will be good because the two major parties are working together for the first time since independence and the road ahead will be like climbing a mountain. But great events take place at mountain tops where we may see the creation of a peaceful, just and all-inclusive society when the impoverished people will have their dignity restored and also have a say in decision making.
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