18 May, 2022


Make Use Of Bid To Postpone Provincial Elections

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The further postponement of provincial council elections will be necessary now that the report of the Delimitation Commission has been rejected in parliament. The majority in parliament rejected the report with all 139 of those present voting against it while 86 MPs including those of the JVP, who supported the report being absent at the time of voting. The fact that no party voted in favour of the Delimitation report is an indication that all parties are wary of elections. Different political parties gave different reasons for their rejections. The ethnic minority parties felt that the proportional representation system which had previously existed offered them a better outcome in terms of the numbers of members they could get elected. The bigger parties objected to the 50:50 proportion between those elected on a first-past-the-post basis at the constituency level and those elected through the party lists as it contributed toward unstable outcomes.

In the debate in parliament, the JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake stressed the importance of approving the report saying the Elections Commission could have called for the much postponed provincial council elections the following day if the report was approved. Joint opposition parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena said it would be possible to hold the provincial elections under the proportional representation system if the delimitation commission was rejected but abstained from the vote. A key problem with the mixed system that the Delimitations Commission endorsed is that it is not conducive t stable majorities being formed. The first-past-the-post system enables locally popular persons to be elected who are not tied to the major parties. This enables them to function more independently and to switch sides as and when they want, leading to unstable administration.

The problem of forming administrations with a stable majority came to the fore at the local government election held earlier in February this year which yielded outcomes that required a considerable amount of time and horse-trading to settle down and enable an administration with a majority to be formed. Notwithstanding these demerits, President Maithripala Sirisena was a supporter of the new mixed system and commissioned the report that has now been shot down. The president appears to be conscious of the responsibility upon him to change the electoral system from being one of a proportional system with preference voting that leads to both inter-party and intra-party competition for votes and preferences respectively. But on this issue of electoral reform it appears that he has been left isolated.

Partisan Politics 

It appears that at the present time narrow considerations of party politics has taken the upper hand, with everything being done with a partisan political motivation in mind. The vote against the Delimitation Commission’s report is an example. The commissioners were appointed after their selection by the Constitutional Council set up by the 19th Amendment to the constitution and consisted of persons who were qualified for their tasks. If there had been areas in their report that needed to be changed, this could have been done without rejecting the entire report and opening the door to having to start again from the beginning. It is especially ironic that the government parties should have not voted in favour of the report of a committee that the president had appointed on the recommendation of the constitutional council. The tension between the president and the rest of the government is indicated by this outcome.

On the other hand, even though the president has been unable to have his will prevail on the issue of electoral reform, he has been able to exert his presidential authority on other issues, but this has been to undermine other plans of the government. An example would be his recent objection to the proposal that government MPs who are responsible for rural development work that the Prime Minister is spearheading should be paid an extra allowance. The government stance with regard to the strike action that has been taken by railway union workers and which they threaten to relaunch is also weakened by the different positions taken by President Sirisena who had negotiated directly with the strikers and reached an agreement with them and the government which has taken the position that the railway demands cannot be dealt with on an ad hoc basis but as part of the general restructuring of government sector salaries.

At the present time Sri Lanka is in a period of uncertainty in which the way forward is difficult to see. There appears to be no team work on the part of the government to secure the future. The opposition too is fragmented and looking for a focus for unity. This may explain the bid to revive the aspirations of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to become a third term president despite the 19th Amendment that precludes those who have been twice elected to the post of president from contesting again. At a recent discussion with community leaders from nine districts there were two important points that were made. The first was the complaint that they did not know, nor did their compatriots know, what was happening in the country. A key example would be the constitutional reform process which has been ongoing for over two years, but with limited transparency, only to be periodically exposed in a controversial manner.

Holistic Campaign 

In the context of the rejection of the Delimitation Commission report it is likely that the country will continue to have a respite from elections for another year. The political parties need to use this period to identify their candidates for the different elections that are to come, especially the presidential and general elections. They also need to create greater awareness amongst the general population about the issues in economic development, reconciliation and governance and how they plan to overcome the challenges in each of these spheres in the national interest. The opposition has been particularly weak in this regard. They focus on criticizing the government for what it is doing and not doing, and promise to topple it from power without further delay. But apart from this negative campaigning they do not spell out their own responses to the challenges they accuse the government of failing to meet. If they wish to build on their previous success at the local government elections at the forthcoming national elections, they need to come up with a programme for positive campaigning.

In recent months the government has been making an effort to communicate its political reform and economic development projects to the general population. An example would be the Ahanna campaign that is being led by the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms which operates under the office of the prime minister. The Ahanna campaign is supported at the local level by the police and government departments. As the exercise gathers strength it is also receiving support from civil society. It explains what the government is doing in terms of national reconciliation, including the setting up of new institutions such as the Office of Missing Persons. However, it also needs to be supported at the macro political level by government leaders who publicly explain the need for continuing to give priority to national reconciliation and constitutional reform as being two sides of the same coin. There is a need to reassure the general population that the fears articulated by ethnic nationalists such as the division of the country will not come to pass.

The second point made by the community leaders in their discussion was that the benefits of the large scale economic programmes that are being launched by the government are failing to reach the majority of people at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. The government is doing considerable advertisement of these programmes especially through the state media. But such media campaigns by themselves are not enough. If those at the bottom levels of society are to benefit, there is a need for decisions made at the top to be cascaded down through mentoring programmes. The community leaders pointed out that the government’s economic development programmes are benefiting those who know about them and have access to those who provide those resources. They stressed the importance of people at the community level being made aware of the new opportunities that are being provided and how to access them. There needs to be a nationwide campaign of awareness creation about how best to access the new opportunities which encompasses both the local and higher levels and state mechanisms need to be structured to support those who ought to benefit.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    proportional representation is the best form of pure democracy.One vote for one person and make your vote count and be precious.The LG elections should have been held on PR basis.Candidates will have to work harder to get elected and first past the post makes it easier and does not show their true strength with electorate.Also i believe that in the new constitution we should mandate it that it will be proportional representation only for all elections and if less than two thirds of the electorate came out to vote,the elections are null and void and have to be again held within 3 months.The protest vote has to be taken into consideration that the voters have no confidence in the candidates put forward.This will result in better quality candidates,otherwise it is like voting for tweedle dee or tweedle dum wih all the nepotism and bum sucking going on.

  • 2

    Jehan, this UNP-SLFP govt is a bi-partisan corruption racket. In the name of (Fake) Reconciliation it is looting the people of Lanka. This is why post war we have a massive foreign development aid and advice induced Debt Crisis. NO good will come from a new Constitution or Delimitation Report as long as this Generation of Corrupt clowns are in Parliament.
    So, like Columbia, Civil society in Lanka needs to:
    1, demand reduction by 40 percent of the salary and perks of Parliamentarians.
    2. force declaration of assets of parliamentarians
    3 Enact legislation to make the award of govt. contracts transparent
    4. Demand stop of Militarization of Sri Lanka and US support to the Lankan Navy and Army as it is occupying civilian prime land in northeast, and ask for foreign “aid” transparancy from donors like US and their front organizations like MCC and Asia Foundation.
    5. Sri Lanka needs such a public education campaign and legislation (as in Columbia) to reduce the numbers of politicians and their salaries and perks and FIRST reduce corruption and money politics

    • 0

      Lanka is a land of Fake Democracy where corrupt politicians play games with New Constitution drafts and delimitation reports to confuse, distract, divide and rule the masses who are being looted by them in the Diyawenna Parliament of corrupt clowns.
      Fake news and the post-war weaponization of culture and religion in Lanka by Trumpland and buddies (India, Japan, Singapore, Aussi) , ensures that our neo-liberal puppet, Bondscam Ranil (who should be impeach for grand larceny at Central Bank), will do their bidding –Against the Interests of the people of Lanka. Hence land, labour,capital and marine resouces are being sold off now that the IMF controls the Debt Trap “Bail Out Business” and is crashing the rupee to gain more leverage over hapless Lankans.
      Long live poor, moda Jehan !

  • 4

    Shame on you JP!
    You should call for resignation of the clown Minister who came through back door who was in charge and then voted again the report.

  • 3

    “The majority in parliament rejected the report with all 139 of those present voting against it while 86 MPs including those of the JVP, who supported the report being absent at the time of voting.” 86 MPs absent at the time of voting ? What a bunch of morons. And they want Salary increases !!!

    • 3

      This report cost over 20 million and the 139 that showed-up to vote and the 86 that showed up but was absent for the vote got their allowance for attending parliament.

      Your money at work.

  • 1

    Urgent need is Sudu Matahya coming back again with his horse whip. Can some Ehelepola wake up at least at this stage? Sudu Matahya needs to roll back to the flawed Soulbury constitution, the least. Thirukkai Vaal will not work. Only he can run the Lankawe cart. Sinhala Intellectuals know only to celebrate annual ceremonies of Pogroms against minorities and annual reform to election law and constitution to make Modayas vote for whom the Royals wants. Kahu Mathatha and Hat Mathya are corrupting more and more with commission. This Paisa Must Appa is a direct agent of New Colonial Master AbdulAzeeze. AbdulAzeeze wanted Paisa in the parliament to ensure the constant supply of home coolie women and Halal, but no Muslims Sinhalese and Tamils elected him. He has very badly punished Canada for talking about human rights and women rights.

    Japan, India, USA and EU stampeding to make sure that their post are not wiped out when the Ranil induced China Tsunami wash off Lankawe. Nobody is telling the truth of how many development contracts China holding in its hand in North. Army is not releasing private lands. Nobody knows for how many this lands’ deeds are with China. The common lands or Public lands are at free disposal of China.
    Tamils has to go alone soon. Sampanthar has to wake up now. We don’t want “Wonder of Asia”. “Pichchai Veadaam Nayai Pidi”. (The beggar went to beg alms from the house was crying “I don’t need alms, please restrain your dog before it tear me off”.) We don’t need Ranil’s and Sampanthar’s Secret Solution. We want only Tamils ancestral land.

  • 1

    What Economic programs this Dr Jehan talking ?.
    STFA is to build two Garabage Recycling Plants , One in Puttalam and One in Kurunegala.
    Wonder how many will be in Hindian ETCA.
    Dr Ranil wants to do a Gam Peraliya.
    But first he wants to give UNP Politikkas extra LKR 200.000 Thou a Month .
    Wonder how much they got for the Yahapalana Car Permit.
    Kirra collected Billions perhaps to build the Expressway .And two contractors got busted in Japan as I understand.
    The word is there are some juicy names in the Bond Report which Sira has put in Quarantine.
    What can Dr Ranil tell the majority about his so called” Good Deeds”
    And the reconciliation is so cool,in the North that Vellala CM is forming his own Political Party with Ponnambalam and Premachandran
    Dr Jehan got a point.
    This ” break”or Time Out ‘will give Wiggy enough time for sure to get ready for the Election..

  • 5

    What unprincipled nonsense is this ! This government has lost the people’s mandate.

    Ranil is the most unwanted leader we have ever had.

    Any honest man should tell them to go the people and have an election.

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