By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to the above titled article by the combined authors Bernard Gunasekera, Bernard Fernando and Janaka Ranasinghe Sagara, published in the Colombo Telegraph and wish to express my views in response.
1. The authors say that “Sri Lanka’s current election system has installed a Parliament that has only brought misery to the people.”This is no doubt true. It reaffirms my view expressed in a previous article that the Electoral process needs a radical change to ensure true democracy in Governance.
2. The Authors say that “the current Party-based election is based on Party Leader nominations”. In the sub-heading Nominations, it is stated that “Party Nominations must be made by the Party Branch in the electoral District and not by the Party Leader. Whether nominations are made by the Party Leader or by the District Branch, it makes no difference. Because, a District Political Branch has no autonomous, independent, separate existence apart from the Political Party at the Centre. It would lead to a conflict with the Party Leader. In any event, even if the District Branch is to exercise the power to make nominations, it would be obligated to the overriding influence of the Party Leader. Thus, it will not lead, as the authors envisage, to “prevent bias based on family, dynasty, corrupt mindset, religion, race or gender”. This will not democratize the process of nominations of candidates for elections. Real democratic nominations will only happen when nominations emerge directly from the people of an electorate, that is, self-nomination by Independent individuals under a system where Political Parties are abolished by electoral law.
3. The authors lament that “2/3rd in Parliament is a mockery as MPs switch sides for covert self-profitable reasons”. It reaffirms again my view that MPs after being elected from one Party, cross-over to another Political Party Government by throwing away moral principle, for pecuniary gain or position, which is an inherent malaise of the Political Party based elections.
4. The authors are of the view that the “current election system is almost impenetrable by a young innovative, honest grass root representative with a different mind- set”. I would qualify not a different mind- set but an educated and independent mind-set. This is a fact. It precludes the entry of educated professionals to Parliament as MPs, as long as Political Parties exist and is the only means to seek election. Independent individuals of intellectual capacity and moral integrity shun a political career because it is dominated by Political Parties with men of lesser character and moral integrity. Of course, it would be argued that there is constitutional freedom for anyone to contest elections and pursue a political career. In reality, could an Independent individual contest elections and win by competing with organized and resourceful Political Parties funded by the business community? Even if Independent candidates are able to win, could they form a Government? Elections are the monopoly of Political Parties and the latter are monopoly of families.
5. The authors refer to “an electoral District-wise meritocratic selection system with proportional representation in Parliament will provide a sustainable solution for Sri Lanka to recover from the current misery”. A change of nomination of candidates for elections from Party Leader to the Party District Branch will not ensure a meritocratic selection. Only when space is provided for qualified educated professional individuals to emerge from the electorates by self-nomination directly for elections, sans Political Parties, a Government based on meritocracy will result.
6. The authors list the following gains of their superficial change to District based nomination:
a) “Government that serves national interests
b) Simple, uncomplicated, transparent method understood by everyone.
c) Elected Parliament reflects District accountability.
d) Election design is robust and not favorable to divisive politics and exploitation of different communities using race, religion, descent and other forms.
e) It seals the openings of corruption.”
7. As long as Political Parties exist and is the means to form a Government, none of the above gains can be realized.
a) Political Party based Government is not a National Government. It is a Government of a political Party and nothing more.
b) The mathematical equation given is complicated and cumbersome and not simple and intelligible to “everyone” as claimed.
d) An elected Parliament has to reflect national accountability and not District accountability.
e) Bribery and Corruption will never cease in a Political Party based Government, because Party solidarity nurtures and protects it.
8) Alternative solution
It is my firm belief that a more democratic and meritocracy oriented Government could be installed only by abolition of Political Parties, wholesale, in the electoral process, constitutionally. Do we really need Political Parties or are Political Parties indispensable for electing a Government? My answer is No. However, Political Parties can be abolished only by Law. One cannot expect an existing Government to do so. No Government formed by Political Party/s will undertake to abolish their Parties by constitutional Amendment, as it amounts to committing suicide. Only recourse available is to draft a New Constitution by a body of independent Constitutional law experts. The Electoral Law should provide for only Independent individuals with specified educational qualification of minimum Degree from a University or equivalent professional qualification from a recognized Professional Academy for eligibility to contest election to Parliament and Provincial Councils.
9) Process of forming the Government after an Election
It is not my intention to elaborate the details of forming a Government based on Independent Individuals. It is outside the limited scope of my response to the Article in question, here. Suffice it would be to state that all the members elected (225) to the Parliament will participate actively in Governance of the country. Since Parties are no more, it will truly be National and democratic. There will not be a formal Opposition. Such a Parliament will select its Speaker, Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Executive Committees under each Minister, formed by all remaining MPs. The Cabinet limited to 25 or 30. The meaningless State Minister posts will be done away with. There will be debate and discussion on all matters, pros and cons, and decisions taken by majority vote. There will be multiple gains from such a system of Government and cost savings.