With the enactment of the landmark 19th Amendment—though it was heavily diluted to accommodate a reluctant opposition—parliamentary democracy has been restored to a large degree. An equally important issue now is to ensure basic standards or qualification and a code of ethics for those who are to be nominated for the upcoming general elections probably in August or early September this year.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga may have failed or faltered on many occasions during her 11 years as the Executive President. But one of her major plus points was the appointment of the eminent lawyer Lakshman Kadirgamar as a national list parliamentarian and as the Foreign Minister. Mr. Kadirgamar, in a memorable acceptance speech, said he had seen many politicians came forward not to serve the people and the country, but to plunder and pillage the wealth and resources of Mother Lanka. Mr. Kadirgamar said his beautiful and blessed country had given so much to him by way of free healthcare, free education and a paradise environment. Therefore he had come forward as an MP and a minister to give back at least part of what he had received from his country. Indeed Mr. Kadirgamar gave back much more than a part. During his ten year term as Foreign Minister, he was widely recognised as one of the best in Asia and played a key role in portraying the right image of Sri Lanka and persuading western countries to ban the LTTE.
We also remember other stalwarts such as D. S. Senanayake, his son Dudly Senanayake who also came forward selflessly and sacrificially to give what they had to the country and not to grab. So did the pioneer socialist stalwarts such as Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe and Pieter Keuneman, Dr. N. M. Perera and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva. There were several others also, perhaps too many to mention. But tragically, especially during the past ten years, the quality and conduct of lawmakers has declined so much that critics or cynics would be justified in describing them more as lawbreakers.
In this new era of the Yahapalanaya government whatever the drawbacks and setbacks, the instability or uncertainty maybe, it is essential to ensure that the next parliament comprises those who are well educated and intelligent or more than that those who like President Maithripala Sirisena commit themselves to be sincere servants of the sovereign people.
One of the major election monitoring groups, the People’s Action Front for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has issued a declaration with three essential points for the nomination of candidates. PAFFREL has requested the Commissioner of Elections to ensure that
when nominations are made, the Commissioner should consider whether candidates have been punished for a crime, have been involved in harmful businesses including drugs or have used political power in an arbitrary manner. PAFFREL has also call upon all political parties to include a larger number of female and youth in their nomination list. Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya accepting the document said it was not a binding document and called for such recommendations to be introduced as a bill.
Last week President Sirisena took the first step for the setting up of the Constitutional Council by appointing Minister and Jathika Hela Urumaya General Secretary Champika Ranawaka as his representative. There is political significance in this with the President going beyond party lines. Mr. Ranawaka this week called on other parties to appoint their nominees to the CC soon so that the Council even with a quorum of seven could nominate an independent Elections Commission so that the next General election could be conducted in a free and fair manner. We hope all parties would corporate in taking this vital step so that the people’s wish and verdict cannot be distorted by any computer gilmart or other ways.