athika Hela Urumaya General Secretary and Western Province Development and Megapolis Minister Champika Ranawaka was absolutely correct when he said there was no interest whatsoever among Parliamentarians about electoral reforms that were to be brought in through the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution during the tenure of the government for President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme. We remember as to how many politicians from either side of the main political parties had divided and fought for those reforms while some of them waxing eloquent on the subject.
The silence maintained now by the President as well as the United National Party (UNP) which was the main contributor to his elevation is incomprehensible given the priority they had given to the matter during the 100-day programme. Equally puzzling is the nonchalance on the part of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the party headed by the President who protested even against the dissolution of the Parliament without introducing the said reforms in May this year.They then even wanted the 19th and the 20th Amendments to be brought together.
President Sirisena’s 100-day programme included proposals for several important pieces of legislation among which were the 19th Amendment to the Constitution for the abolition of the Executive Presidency, 20th Amendment for the electoral reforms and a Right to Information Act. The 19th Amendment was adopted during the so-called 100-day programme, but with the Executive powers of the Presidency being trimmed instead of being abolished while the other two pieces of legislation - 20th Amendment and the RTI Act – have almost been forgotten.
The 20th Amendment with the main purpose of abolishing the preferential voting system was basically meant for the reduction - not eradication - of corruption by the politicians and bringing an end to the inter-party clashes. However, it has now become the proverbial monkey planning to build a house for it during each rainy season. Soon after each election during which each candidate spends hundreds of millions of rupees on his campaigns and inter-party clashes heighten, politicians call for the amendment of the electoral system, but soon forget it. It is after the next election that they revisit the matter. This has gone on for the past several decades.
There is no doubt; the preferential voting system must be abolished. Apart from the vast sums, candidates have to spend on their election campaigns and the in fights among members of the same party which sometimes claimed lives of politicians such as Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and their supporters, the preferential voting system is more prone to elect unqualified and lesser qualified candidates. It has to be remembered that a UPFA candidate in remand prison after being accused of murder had bagged the highest number of preferential votes from the Ratnapura District, beating even former senior ministers from the same party at the last General election. Actress Upeksha Swarnamali who contested for Gampaha District at her debut election in 2010 beat veteran Karu Jayasuriya of the same party.
The present government that came to power mainly with the slogan of eradication of corruption has now embroiled in corruption by its own leaders. Very soon there might be competition in corrupt practices among them, given the vast amount of money each of them had spent at the last general election.They would then further lose interest in electoral reforms. Therefore concerned people - politicians as well as the civil society - have to push for such electoral reforms forthwith.