By M. Ajiwadeen –
Representative democracy is vital for the democratic political practice and good governance. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country and its pluralistic view and diversified representation have been recognized and guaranteed by the Constitutional Reforms by implementing the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Commission (1833), Manning Commission (1920) and the Soulbury Commission (1947).
In this background, the Constitutional Reforms, the Amendments to the Constitutions and the Delimitation Commissions appointed to act independently had attempted to ensure the due representation of the under privileged or the numerically minor groups by recommending various mechanism. For an instance, the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, 1946 permitted the creation of a multi-member constituency to enable the representation of under privileged or the numerically minor groups and even cast groups. Accordingly, Amabalngoda-Balapitiya multi member constituency was demarcated by the Delimitation Commission in 1946 taking into consideration representation of certain casts.
We, the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts (ACUMLYF), on behalf of the Muslim Community of Sri Lanka, have routinely intervened on national issues and advocated for due representation of the Minority community for over five decades, urge the government and the national political parties to recognize the pluralistic nature of Sri Lankan society as one country comprising the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, including Malays and Burghers etc. and ensure adequate representation of all communities in all legislative, provincial and local authority bodies, by adopting the principles of inclusivity and equality.
Proposals for Electoral Reforms
1. Trends toward proportionate representative (PR) system is increasing in the modern democratic world. At present, around 80 countries have been adopted the system, considering the pluralistic nature, broader perspective, providing a multiple option for the people rather than restricting the electors into a small unit by authorizing gerrymandering. However, a few shortcomings have been identified under the PR system in Sri Lanka, it could be resolved by insightful policy decisions on the party system, code of ethics for the candidates and empowering the independent election commission. Therefore, we emphasize that an independent commission should be appointed to review the shortfalls of the existing electoral system and propose recommendations, to strengthen co-existence and peace in postwar Sri Lanka, instead replacing it with another untested complicated model.
2. All political parties, community representatives and members of civil society could work towards due representation to all, representing political parties, religious and ethnic groups and the social segments. In general, based on the Census 2012 and the Voters’ Registry 2014 , the representation of the ethno-religious groups should approximately be as follows;
3. We are concerned that, if the mixed proportional system which was proposed by the Interim Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (2007) or some other similar hypothetical model is implemented in a hurry, it would be an undemocratic practice and also may lead to a cut down in the representation of the numerically minority communities by around 50% or more.
4. The Franchise, as the key source of the Sovereignty characterize the people’s representation through the electoral system. Therefore, any proposals/reforms for the change of the electoral system should consider the views of the people of all communities, than the purely concerning on the administrative set up, electoral mechanisms, political grievances or the stability of the parliament.
5. If the proposed mixed system is presented as the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, it should focus followings;
- A delimitation Commission, based on Census 2012 and Electoral Registers 2015 (to be completed by Nov. 2015), be appointed consisting of members representing all communities, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims.
- The Single and the Multi Member Constituencies, concerning the pluralistic nature of the region, where 10 multi member constituency for Muslims be demarcated accordingly;
- The ratio for the First Past the Post (FPP) and the District Proportionate Representation (DPR) systems, should be not more than 60:40 and the district minority representation should be ensured by the DPR. A remarkable number of Muslim voters who are residing in Kurunegala (93,000) and Gampaha (82,000) districts should be considered to receive due representation under the DRP system.
- From the seats allocated for the National List, 05 seats be allocated for the Members of minority communities;
- 03-04 seats for the minority community who fail to get a representation from whole Province, though they have a population, over 60,000 at the Census.
- 01-02 seats for a member from the minor ethnic groups which fail to receive representation. For example, the Malays who are a distinct ethnic group having a language of their own. They have been represented in the Parliament at a few occasions.
*All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts (ACUMLYF) statement – M. Ajiwadeen, General Secretary/ ACUMLYF