18 August, 2022


If Representation For Dispersed Minorities Is The Sticking Point In 20A …..

By Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

According to the Daily News report on Cabinet meeting of May 27th (ePaper: | Online edition of Daily News – Sri Lanka), the cabinet is deadlocked on 20A. According to other sources, The Cabinet sub-committee appointed for the purpose had an agreement on the proposed adaptation of the New Zealand method with 165 FPP seats and 255 total seats, but, at the larger cabinet meeting differences re-emerged.  The meeting had adjourned giving the President and Prime Minister the responsibility to address the diffferences. Apparently, the President is meeting the UPFA group today to get their opinion. What will be the response of the UNP and the allies is the big question.

Representation for minorities, geographically dispersed minorities in particular, is essentially the issue. In my opinion, dispersed minority concerns are real, but, solutions exist. The proposed mixed member proportional (MMP) system is an adaptation of New Zealand method to Sri Lanka with ideas from Dinesh Gunawardena committee report other Sri Lanka unique adaptations thrown in. For short we shall call this method a multi member proportional Sri Lanka or MMP-LK. Here, the seats in the parliament are divided among parties using proportional representation but the performance of individual candidates in 165polling divisions is used as a replacement for district-wise performance in preferential vote or manapes. In essence if you don’t get nomination for 165 polling divisions your only chance of getting to parliament is through the other 90 seats, of which about 20-30 may go to best runners-up.

Tamil Vote Photo CREDIT- REUTERS:DINUKA LIYANAWATTETamils and Muslims in the North and the East are minorities at the national level but in their regions they have the strength in numbers to send their representative to the parliament through first-past-the-post (or FPP) component of a mixed member system. Indian-origin Tamils also have the power in the Nuwara-Eliya district but not anywhere else.

Additional opportunities for dispersed minorities can be created if about 10 multi-member seats are created across the country where there is ethnic diversity. Even with larger number of multi-member seats, about 120 remaining polling divisions are closed off to minority candidates because no major party would want to field minorities for these polling divisions. As for the multi-member seat solution, trust in the delimitation process is essential because returning minorities through multi-member seats is a solution s that cannot be included in the constitution. Minorities have seen gross violations of their representation rights in the most recent delimitation process for local government jurisdictions. The best person to rebuild their trust is President Maithripala Sirisena. He should personally assure minority party leaders that he will appoint impartial and representative members to the proposed delimitation commission of five.

Secondly, but, more importantly, political alliances have been used effectively by minorities to get their due representation in the parliament. In the 2010 parliament, for example, 10 out of 29 national list seats were awarded to Tamil or Muslim list members. According to our simulations, assuming voters would behave more or less as they did in the past, the proposed system will yield about 30 district list members and 30 national list members returned as members of parliament giving double the opportunity for minority parties to negotiate places in party lists. If the party lists can be ranked and closed the minorities do not have to worry about promises not being kept. Assurance of list nominations through alliances may be strengthened by mandating closed party-lists. As for the workability of closed lists, it is up to the political parties to decide.

In the final analysis, solutions exist, but, what is needed is a good faith effort by all concerned.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Thank you: ”In the final analysis, solutions exist, but, what is needed is a good faith effort by all concerned.”
    The govt has changed and we have got a simple and sturdy President but the behaviour of Ministers does not reflect his good intentions.

    How do we bring about this ”good faith effort”?

  • 0

    The people are not asking for the first past the post.he only reforms they are asking for is to see that half animal and half human,like the lion and human fornication does not enter parliament.So just stick to seeing that decent,educated and capable members are selected through the front door and not through the back door just because they are the sons of so and so or friends and relatives of so and so.Once the elections commission as per the 17 th amendment is constituted see that the commission vets the candidates and passes them for suitability.

    You guys are good at tackling areas that the people are not interested,but not showing much interest for the topics that the people want urgently to deal with such as crime,corruption and economic issues.Trying to increase the numbers from 225 to 260 when the people want to reduce to 200 is like spitting on their faces,and when 200 virgins are raped in akuressa and spending day and night with this 20th amendment is like nero fiddling when rome is burning.

    Dissolve the parliament immediatly as promised.It is now 135 days,not 100,a delay of 35%.The people are waiting to give a fitting reply to these yahapalanaya jokers.The JVP and Fonseka are the ones who are going to gain the most from this election from what i can see.

  • 2

    Thanks Dr. Gamage for these ideas for breaking the alleged deadlock. HOwever in the long term, wouldn’t the best option for Sri Lanka be the inclusion of ALL ethnic/racial/religious groups into the mainstream political parties? (Instead of having ethnic/religious-identity based-political parties)

    The same goes for our police and armed forces, in my opinion.

  • 1

    To Sinhalese buddhist
    Yes, objectives of electoral reforms can be many. Typically we look for representation, integration and decision making.

    Integration-i.e.a Sri Lankan identity which reflects our diversity within a largely Sinhala Buddhist community- should be a long term objective. In the short term we have to think ethnic because we are still divided along ethnic lines.

    Having one MP responsible for smaller electorates will be a step toward integration. In an electorate with 10% minorities, a candidate cannot ignore their wishes because they present a block vote that may go to your opponent. This is true for Sinhala or muslim minorities in Tamil areas.

    • 0

      Why should a subsuming Sri Lankan identity “be a long term objective”?
      Why shouldn’t Mr X have a Muslim identity as strong as his Indian identity?
      Why are they considered mutually exclusive?
      The only true long-term “integration” is globalism; it is an inevitability. Within that let every pluralism prosper.

  • 0

    NP is all Tamil Vellala MPs.

    EP is Vellalas and Wahabis or vice versa..

    And they want Vellalas , Whabis and even non Vellalas on Sinhala Turf as well, which is literally less than 2/3 of the land mass.

    Un elected PM and his sponsors love that,

    But the UPFA MPs have to fight not only with the UNP but also their own Party Boss and the President to protect their territory.

    The President who owes more to the UNP TNA , Diaspora and the West than the Sinhala Buddhists is trying hard to stop the UPFA getting the upper hand….

    And is fighting to protect the un Elected PM from the No confidence motion as well…

  • 0

    This is a fairly clear statement unlike a previous article by this lady (apologies if I am confusing you with someone else). But please clarify the following for the benefit of those of us who know nothing about NZ.

    a) You say “Here, the seats in the parliament are divided among parties using proportional representation but the performance of individual candidates in 165 polling divisions is used as a replacement for district-wise performance in preferential vote or manapes”. Let us be clear. (i) First 165 candidates will be declared elected in the familiar Westminster FPP style. (ii) Then the total votes polled by each partiy in these 165 ‘electorates’ will be used, in some fashion, as the basis to allocate the remaining 90 PR seats. Is this correct?

    b) When implementing (ii) above will all the votes polled by a party, including those polled by winning FPP candidates, be counted; or will only the votes polled by NON-winning candidates be counted? If the former does it not amount to double counting the votes of FPP winners? (Double benefit).

    c) In either case, how will the best-performing runners up be chosen? 25,000 votes polled by a runner-up in say Bintenne may be ‘worth’ a lot more than 75,000 polled by a runner-up in say Colombo Central. Maybe runners up will have to be ranked by their percentage poll in their electorate.

  • 0

    Dear EW Golding;
    Thank you for two good questions.Sorry about the delay.
    In the MMP-LK the 196 district-PR seats and the 59 National-PR seats are determined using the existing PR method. The use of remainder votes as proposed in SLFP method published on april 19th in Sunday is based on a Multi-member majoritarian (MMM) architecture which is different from the proposed New Zealand adaptation or MMP-LK. Both methods would work but MMP method is gaining acceptance because it is closer to the current PR system.

    2. The best runner-up is the person securing the highest PERCENTAGE of votes in that district from a given pa

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