21 May, 2024

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Suggested Reforms For A Better Exercising Our Franchise

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

This is a sequel to my article on Are we bold enough for radical change? A friend whose opinions cannot be discarded as rubbish, raised the issue that while the overwhelming opinion is that the present situation is bad, there is no suggestion of what should be done, and how? This is a justifiable question and complex. I will try to flesh this out, although briefly.

(i) Is there need for Political parties, especially based on the revelation that more than eighty (80) entities have registered with the Commissioner of elections. Why so many, I ask? Some may talk of different “policies” Please spell them out, I persist. I may be stupid to a fair degree but even this needs proof. My reading is that many are lured by the possibility of selling their privileges, to the genuine cases, for big money.

First, I had a look at a couple of old “manifestos” that I happen to have. These are identical “Wish Lists“ – abolish the presidency, eradicate poverty, ensure good health, education, houses and jobs etc. etc. What use is there for political parties— none!.

I fall back of how that affable DM Jayaratne (Dimu) at that time Prime Minister and Minister of Buddha Sasana (no less). He says “Who believes manifestos? They are only a bunch of lies just to win votes.” How true.

How far do freedom and democracy exist?. How much do the electorate have in the choice of candidates? Answer: “None”.

The Party hierarchy chooses, not on merit, but race, religion, caste, contributions to party coffers, and ability to carry out killings, thefts etc. Merit has nothing to do with it. Is it a wonder that illiterate buffoons, liquor (Kasippu) dealers, chain snatchers and other criminals have the best chance of being selected? There is big money in politics, and the only way in which quality may be expected is by reducing the opportunity for protected crime.  

Process of polling. The matter is incredibly pointless. The ballot paper is about four times bigger than a foolscap sheet of paper. Even the most knowledgeable, will find this forbidding. Then comes the marking. How many can understand the need to mark three choices. I am baffled, but perhaps not nearly to the level, as a humble wife of a village farmer. Next comes the business of the counting of votes. Poor beggars.

After the new Parliament sits, a bloke is chosen as a “Speaker”, who luckily does not speak. e e acts He He sits on a stage, acting like a football referee, who has left his whistle at home, and works peculiarly. He is no better than a timekeeper, who cuts off a member who is developing a somewhat better argument, is “Timed out”, in favour of some clown, innocent of any understanding of what a debate means.

Regarding the matter of schooling, there is concern about the academic quality of MP’s. This is nonsense, We have a former Vice-Chancellor, Rhodes Scholar, and D.Phil, (Oxford), several MBBS Doctors and a number of Ph.D’s , (increasing daily – sprouting like toadstools after a shower of rain. So, on average, we are possibly unsurpassed.in terms of “average intellectual excellence,” our Parliament is possibly unsurpassed. So, the problem is not a lack of formal education.

It is the “Party Whip” that is the underlying reason. The Party hierarchy decides, and the Members are required to raise their hands as ordered. Thus, only ‘double amputees’ (who have no arm to raise) should be denied entry to Parliament.

This raises another question. If a minimum education is no hindrance, then comes the question of the “debates”, which Members are permitted to participate. As the well-known Tarzie Vittachchi declared “Communication, without transformation is gossip” If the result of any issue has been preordained, what is the point of Parliamentary Debate? In fact what is the purpose of Parliament itself, except for its entertainment value, but this at a cost of Rs, 1,000,000/= per day.

As I have argued elsewhere, if a better quality of Members is desired, it has to be realized that not all MP’s are equal. Some are gifted with speech, some have not illegally and morally wrongfully hawked their duty free vehicles, may be more honest etc, So, they have also be rewarded adequately. A good measure of worth would be the last salary drawn supported by the last Income Tax Return before entry to Parliament. Then apply a multiplier. This could be 2,5,10 or even fifteen times, the last declared wealth. No other Allowances, hidden payments, no rent, no water, no phone or other payments. All inclusive – no tax free cars, petrol coupons and no pension. Some of these may be unique, Presently, there is a circle of corruption involving election costs, emoluments, re-election costs, pension etc. This vicious cycle could be broken only by reducing the financial value of election. If this is rectified, the attraction to Drug Lords, Kasippu producers, chain snatchers, cattle thieves, thugs and other criminals will be reduced and a more respected and less reviled may result.

“That is best, that governs least.” Perhaps this is what the ARAGLAYA DEMANDED – A SYSTEM CHANGE.

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    System change can only be possible if people were first able to distinguish between good and evil. The issue with VFS visa issue clears everything nowadays.

    Before reading this, I thought of adding the following video. This can help the Sinhala man and several others who have completely forgotten their past till date.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP4FjQvHZ14

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