By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
The dreadful attacks of Easter Sunday, 21 April have cast a heavy gloom on our nation. The media have been inundated with narratives, interpretations and speculations.
In this situation, an important issue has not invited attention. I refer to the NCM (no confidence motion) against the Minister Rishard Bathiudeen. If I have got it right, the PM who also heads the UNP, has allowed Members of his Party although a partner in Government, to exercise a “Conscious Vote”. This is a symbolic but significant departure from conventional practice.
This needs to be coupled with a Secret Ballot for very obvious reasons. Naturally, the “Party Whip” should remain suspended. It is challenged as being contrary to convention in the House of Commons, the “Westminster Model that we purport to follow. Here it is said, allows a secret ballot solely in the election of the Speaker. If so, we should depart from this particular practice, there being very cogent reasons for doing so. There is little doubt that this would be endorsed by MP’s, if not unanimously but would command a large majority of Parliament. The exercise of the Party Whip” is another inherited concept.
The need to improve the quality of MP‘s is widely and frequently aired. Present practices, prevent this. Nomination of candidates remains the prerogative of the Party leadership. The criteria considered in the process has little to do with competence, integrity and Education, but much to do with support (financial and otherwise) but provide necessary support for Party misdemeanors and expediency. The suggestion that the educational level should receive priority (in a House with a majority of whom has not acquired even the barest basic education), and consequently, now has a huge content of ‘educationally challenged’ members. But it is only a partial remedy to disqualify the unworthy. We have had examples of those with little formal education, who have been spectacular successes and an equal content of people with stellar academic records, who have proved to be little more than nincompoops.
Considering the present procedures for candidate selection, it is patently unfair to hold the voters as responsible for the degradation of quality material. They are presented with candidates lacking in the most basic competence for good judgment or sense, befitting their roles as “voices for the people”. The voters are often in the predicament of selecting the “least worse”. Hardly the intents of “Democracy” which they are pledged to serve.
Thus does even the smallest moves towards establishing the freedom of choice, ignite hope. Let us wait and see how this glimmer of hope works out.