13 December, 2019

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“The Government Of Australia Has Changed”

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The Government of Australia has changed” were the first words of victory speech delivered by Tony Abbot, the leader of the Liberal Party (LP) when the results of a majority of seats were clear and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Kevin Ruud, and the outgoing Prime Minister, conceded the defeat. Still the final result is not declared by the Australian Election Commission formally as recounting continues in half a dozen of seats due to close count.

In a conservative swing in Australian politics, it is believed that the composition of the House of Representatives (Lower House) of 150 members would be something like 90 to 55 between the LP (along with the National Party) and the ALP, the rest going for minority parties including the Greens. The elections held on 7 September were not only for the House of Representatives but also to elect one half of the Senate of 76 members, although the formal change would come into effect only in next July.

Voting System

Voting in Australia is compulsory and every voter has to cast it’s preferences in two ballot papers, one to select a Member of Parliament (MP) for the relevant electorate or seat and the other to give a mandate to a preferred party to nominate desirable members to the Senate from the State. I am relating these details for the benefit of those who still aspire for a better electoral system for Sri Lanka and to take some inspiration from the Commonwealth Australia.

Unlike in present Sri Lanka, Australia retains the electorate or the seat system like in the pre-1978 parliamentary system in Sri Lanka. This is one of the most important corner stones of any parliamentary democracy, in my opinion and experience, which has been destroyed for known and unknown reasons under the present Presidential system since 1978. Likewise, a Second Chamber is important for any parliamentary democracy that believes in checks and balances, especially with devolution of power, which was abolished in Sri Lanka in 1972, in an effort to concentrate power in one chamber.

Preferential voting operates in Australia, to select among the contenders in an electorate for the House of Representatives, and among the parties from a State for the Senate. It is not the preferential voting like in Sri Lanka which has led not only to interparty rivalry but interparty killings and political violence in general. To explain the system clearly, at the last elections, I voted in the electorate of Greenway in the State of New South Wales in the following manner.

I have no hesitation to say that I voted for Michelle Rowland from the Labor Party as the first preference (1) for Greenway, but I also had to cast preferences from 2 to 9 as there were altogether nine different candidates. Otherwise, my ballot would not have been counted as valid. The counting system is such that if there is no clear winner with 50% + 1 in the first count, then the other preferences are counted until a clear winner is selected.

The Senate ballot paper was different. It is similar to what JR Jayewardene advocated as the list system in Sri Lanka in 1966, where the party decides the final candidates. There is nothing much wrong in this system to the Senate, if of course the political parties are democratic. I had two options in the ballot paper for the Senate, either to select one party above the line or cast preferences to different parties below the line. I selected the first option, to cast my vote only to the ALP which was predicted to be wiped out in the election, although it was not the case in the final count. Of course I could have voted for the Greens for the Senate, but I strongly sticked to the ALP given its current vulnerability. The ALP managed to retain all former cabinet ministers, and the party was not wiped out in Queensland or in the Western Sydney where I live, as predicted by the opinion polls.

This I have expressed before. I doubt the efficacy of opinion polls except in terms of knowledge or research in a parliamentary democracy. I may be wrong. Opinion polls were almost like party propaganda. When Kevin Rudd took over from Julia Gillard in late June, he was the preferred PM compared to Tony Abbot, according to the polls. Then he came down (or brought down?), and down, and it was even predicted that he would sure to lose his own seat. But he won the seat very comfortably. I am not saying that the opinion polls determine the outcome of elections, but they definitely influence the psyche of the voters or even the parties. In a democracy, opinion polls cannot be controlled or outlawed. But people at least could be better educated not to depend on the opinion polls. Even the ALP got rattled by the opinion polls and some party members got demoralized.

Voter Behaviour  

I have known and I have taught that people vote by and large considering three variables, (1) party, (2) issues and (3) candidate/s, not necessarily in that order but the order depending on the voter’s outlook and the country situation. Like in many other countries, there are disillusionments, particularly among young voters about traditional parties. As the ALP was in power since 2007, and at least for the last four years they were fighting among themselves over the leadership, this disillusionment was high. This is something perennial in many left oriented political parties.

In respect of issues, the economy took prominence, the Liberals highlighting the budget deficit and the debt very prominently in the campaign. The ALP effort to emphasise the possible cuts to education, health and social services didn’t work much. The Labor slogan ‘cut, cut and cut to the bone’ didn’t bear fruit especially when the highlighted 70 billion ‘black hole’ was not credible to any decent imagination. Even in his victory speech, the newly elected PM, Tony Abbot, promised that “the carbon tax would go, the boats would be stopped and the budget would be on track for a surplus.” In contrast, the Labor promises or the slogans were too general or abstract.

There were electorates where the outcome became determined by the candidates and this is something I wish to emphasise from experience that needs to be strengthened in Sri Lanka or in any other country. The close synergy between the electors and the elected is necessary. This I would call the Greenway experience.

Greenway Experience

Michelle Rowland of the ALP was elected in 2010 for the first time with a margin over the required 50 per cent by only 0.9 per cent. This time she ran against all the odds of party rift and national issues on the strength of her candidacy, of course with a Labor background, and won with a 3 per cent margin. As she told the media, “I was campaigning from day one after I was elected last time,” to mean that it is the way any MP should have acted when elected for an electorate. This was very clear from our arrival in Blacktown, a year back from another electorate and since then we used to receive her information regularly with her request to contact her in any (public) necessity. In addition, the opposition candidate for the Liberal Party was abysmally weak, without being able to answer basic questions posed by the media and of poor campaigning.

Michelle Rowland, MP

Greenway, with nearly hundred thousand electors, is an 84 square kilometre electorate to the North West of Sydney with several major towns of mixed population. I had the opportunity to talk to over 150 people, over the phone about the election, of course to campaign for Rowland. There were some who refused to talk or point blankly expressed their antipathy for Labor but by and large people were responsive. Even those who expressed misgivings about the Labor policies or the party, they were appreciative of the ‘popular touch’ of Michael Roland. There was no need to introduce the candidate; they all knew her in favour or against.

Some were quick to say, “Yes, I have talked to her,” “Yes, she addressed our meeting,” or “I met her campaigning this morning at the Seven Hills station” etc. Of course there were complains of personal or social nature. One wanted to know whether she could get back his job that was lost due to some redundancy in NSW Railway. One asked whether the Labor could allow the pensioners to draw their pensions abroad. One was complaining about robbery in the neighbourhood, and the police inaction, and many in Toongabbie complained about the lack of a lift at the Sation. Some complained about school bus transport. I was talking to people in Seven Hills, Toongabbie, Pendle Hills, the Ponds and Blacktown areas.

More enlightened ones discoursed about the economic policy, refugee issues, issues of education or hospitals. I was talking to mainly three groups, the Tamils (both Indian and Sri Lankan), the Indians in general and a mixed group including traditional Australians. I am not sure whether there was any category called Sinhalese but some Sinhalese names came under Tamils or Indians.

What I have to emphasise is the most systematic way that the campaign was organized by the Rowland’s Office in Seven Hills and given to the volunteers like me to campaign. There were many volunteers, and in addition to telephoning there were doorknocking, mailing and poster campaigns which I was not involved. My involvement of telephoning also was limited due to health reasons. Rowland herself telephoned the voters with a daily target of 50 per day.

I went as Lucky. This was the name I was called from my first day in the Labor office. No one asked or worried about my actual identity. I had only to reveal my full name if it was asked, by my old compatriots recognizing my accent over the phone. There were other lighter moments. Once I had called the Christian Democratic candidate for Greenway and quite a seasoned one! He was extremely polite, but gave me a long sermon explaining the differences between the policies of Labor and the Christian Democrats which I decided to humbly listen.

There is no need to say that the election was held, as always, peacefully and thus the campaigning was allowed until the last moment. Only disturbing scenes on TV were due to the heckling of both Liberal and Labor leaders by some refugee advocates during the election campaigns. It may be relevant to quote from the concession speech delivered by Kevin Rudd as it would have a message for a country like Sri Lanka in terms of authentic democratic values.

“Tonight is the time to unite as the great Australian nation. Because whatever our politics may be we are all first and foremost Australian. And the things that unite us are more powerful than the things that divide us which is why the world marvels at Australia.”

“This country which can manage its political differences peacefully and conduct the most vigorous of debates peacefully and resolve our politics peacefully and with civility, that is why this country is such a great country is such a great country. And that in this marvellous tapestry of modern Australia, the mosaic of our multicultural nation that with fashion such unity out of diversity, therein lies the great Australian miracle.”

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Latest comments

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    I suppose the Australian political framework, and its population in general have a higher level of ethics and moral conscience than their Sri Lankan counterparts.

    I do not believe that Sri Lankans have always been like this. It has been a gradual process of social degeneration which has occurred perhaps over several decades, with successively lower standards set each time.

    If Sri Lanka is to regain any semblance of respect among the league of nations it must strive to improve its social norms and value systems that average citizens live by and practice.

    Whether that can be achieved within the present socio-political context is the question.

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      Yes, That is why they treat Aborigines as dogs and make aborigines suffer more than can handle.

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         www.alp.org.au/cm10_220813  ALP MEDIA RELEASE says “The Rudd Labor Government is also providing more than $77,000 to the Eelam Tamil Association, Victoria ….”

        Labour party giving Australian government money to fringe groups like EELAM TAMIL Association …. Using Australian government money for block votes? Labour with people like Laksiri is behaving like third rated party in developing world … No wonder that Labour’s primary votes is the lowest in a century …

        Look at the victory speeches of Tony and Rudd … I thought Rudd has won judging by the speech … All hot air, idealistic speeches, no substance… Sounds like Obama… … Excellent for people like Laksiri … For common man, there is nothing in there … All empty high talk …

        No wonder Laksiri likes Labour party!

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          “The Rudd Labor Government is also providing more than $77,000 to the Eelam Tamil Association, Victoria, to provide leadership and empowerment programs for youth who might be susceptible to radicalisation.”

          “Eelam Tamil Association’s proposed project, Filling the Gap, will focus on developing community leadership skills, direct networking and empowerment through education, or organising active participation and networking in community sporting and social activities.”

          So, what was wrong?

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            PM Rudd gives money to “… to provide leadership and empowerment programs for youth who might be susceptible to radicalisation.”
            Oh! My God God!
            I believe Eelem Tamil Association would Ofcourse utilize Rudd’s money to enhance the leadership skills of the EELAM Tamils in the project – EELAM …
            What kind of BS is this “empowerment programs for youth who might be susceptible to radicalisation”?
            Does that mean ETA wants to work against ITSELF by de-radicalizing the young Eelam Tamils? I thought ETA’s primary task is to radicalize the Tamil youth …
            No wonder Laksisiri’s great labour party touching lows of the century? Corrupting the old great labour party to dishout Australian’s tax payers money to EELLAM PROJECT is now so easy …. These Eelam tamils are corrupting the whole world … Luckily, they are getting exposed little by little …

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      So has the pompous and pontificating oracle at Melbourne said and so shall it be done with Humans Mark 2.

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    Sinhalese Sri Lankans in Australia, are too busy cutting their own Tall Poppies down, to worry about the Politics in the rest of the country. Otherwise, Australia would soon end up like Sri Lanka.

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      Ha ha ha… ain’t that the truth!

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    What relevance Aussie Elections have with our Lanka?.

    These new Aussies should enjoy the good Social Welfare Network there and move on, leaving our poor inhabitants to get on with their lives in the current peaceful and progressive environment after thirty years of hell.

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      K A SUMANAWATHY; [ piñata Kahinna]

      “leaving our poor inhabitants to get on with their lives”

      Inhabitants became poor, because KING FOX And his clan Looting Masses money.

      “current peaceful and progressive environment after thirty years of hell”.
      My Axx, We have now Police contract Killers and Follow up Forces getting paid by our own pockets.
      Bloody Hyenas.

      Hellish environment came Sri Lanka after the KING FOX and his clan vested power of the governance and state defence.

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    Neither Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott or any prime ministers before them were hell bent on forming a family dynasty like the RajaPox family.
    Neither the RajaPox family or a majority of the majority believes in multiculturalism…and as long as this remains the norm, we will never ever be Sri Lankan. All we will be is Sinhala Buddhist, Sinhala Christian, Tamil, Moor, Malay, Bhai, Burgher etc. who live in a country called Sri Lanka.

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    Wow, A real kalu-suddek.

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      Ah, the day the “Ling Gemba” saw the “Kalu Sudda”!!! CONTACT.

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    The main thing is that majority of australian voters are educated and able to differentiate between policies rather than candidates.
    The fact that there is zero election violence contributes to the full expression of preferences by voters.
    Last but not least,there are foolproof methods/processes of balloting and counting.

    By contrast,our election processes are severely flawed.
    We have not had a free and fair election since independence.
    Our parliament and even political parties appear not to desire a correct/foolproof electoral process through a powerful Election Commission.

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    Laksiri, you were once blaming me for berating the Kitchen Brains responsible for the present Lawlessness and decadence of our society. At least now do you realize the damage caused by such individuals to this Paradise of yore? Starving the ordinary masses of an English Education, leading them up the Garden Path of a False Utopia with a Vernacular Degree not worth the paper of the Certificate denoting the Qualification, for many to be massacred at the altar of Revolution, to which even you have contributed during your day?

    You say, ‘Unlike in present Sri Lanka, Australia retains the electorate or the seat system like in the pre-1978 parliamentary system in Sri Lanka. This is one of the most important corner stones of any parliamentary democracy, in my opinion and experience, which has been destroyed for known and unknown reasons under the present Presidential system since 1978. Likewise, a Second Chamber is important for any parliamentary democracy that believes in checks and balances, especially with devolution of power, which was abolished in Sri Lanka in 1972, in an effort to concentrate power in one chamber.

    It appears that it is still not clear to you, although you currently claim the value of the Second Chamber, in a Country as ours where the majority Hoi Polloi are unintelligent including the Mediocrity of the so called Educated, that our Free Education System has produced. The TRAGEDY is we had a Second Chamber in our Political System, A Senate consisting of Members of repute who would have found difficult to contest with the riff raff that dominate the current Political scene, marred with absolute violence, preventing such individuals to contribute their usefulness to the society, was done away with, in the early ’60s by the KITCHEN BRAINS long before the ’72 Constitution where she was responsible for making the Independent Public Servants servile to the Postal Peons, Lawyer’s Clerks, Bus Stand Kavi Kola sellers, who were Ministers in her Cabinet. You having supported such change went on further to support this Megalomaniac MR. It is sad that Wisdom has dawned on you rather late to appreciate what the Australians enjoy today compared to what we had and lost.

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    Mr. Fernando:
    To my knowledge you have made two very big mistakes. Mrs. Bandaranaike abolished the Senate long before the 1972 constitution was formulated, because she did not have a majority in the Senate to sail through bills to her liking. It was ironical and unethical as she managed to be the Prime Minister in 1960 only because there was a Senate and only by getting nominated (by herself) to the Senate as she did not contest that election and was not a member of the legislature to be the Prime Minister. This like the Sinhala saying “Kanna dunna atha hapa kanawa” (Bite hand that fed you)
    The other is that J.R.Jayewardene’s advocacy as the list system in Sri Lanka was not in 1966, but after the Preferential system was introduced with the 1976 constitution where the party decides the final candidates.
    Your disliking towards JR and your liking towards Mrs. B is clearly shown here by twisting the facts.
    As a very well read and knowledgeable political scientist you should not make such errors in your writings.
    When such errors are made how are we to believe how correct what you write of Australian politics?

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      Mr. Pandith,

      You do have a point! The Senate was abolished on 2 October 1971 by the 8th Amendment to the Soulbury Constitution and not in 1972. Sorry for the error.

      But on your second point, I was referring to JRJ’s speech at the Ceylon Association of the Advancement of Science on 14 December 1966. It was not an error.

      Of course as a ‘Pandith,’ you are free to have your own opinions about ‘my likings or dislikings’ of JRJ or Mrs. B.

      Good Dai!

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    Laksiri,

    What is the point white-washing white behavior. If details are looked into a capitalists system can never help fellow human beings. How are they treating the aborigines now?

    Once I had a white Australian sharing an office room with me who came from Wagga Wagga. He told me Austrailia exporting its iron ore and getting down Toyotas.

    Another Sinhala female engineer living in Aus for decades told me that postal workers do not work week days and get OT by working on weekends. She also said her city looks like a Chinese city and not Aus.

    May be you can write about these inside real stories.
    On my part I can tell you that America is full of problems in healthcare, public education, lawyers, doctors (both groups milking the poor), corrupt politics etc. The only difference from Sri Lanka is that this a wound on an elephant’s leg while in Sri Lanka it is mouse with a wound.

    I do not know if you are a Buddhist. The path proposed by the Bodu Bala Sena is the only path to rescue Sri Lanka or the capitalist world.

    You and I enjoy a temporary safety in the west.

    Do you not agree that since 1931 a group of rich Christians destroyed Sri Lanka?

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      If capitalism is so bad and Bodu Bala Sena is so good, you haven’t explained why you haven’t left America and returned to Sri Lanka yet?

      You are the real hypocrites, in every sense of the word, who live in the west while financially promoting fascist BBS to make sure Sri Lanka is embroiled in endless ethnic-religious hatred. Why do you have the need for Sri Lankans to suffer in order for you to convince yourself that you are living a “better” life?

      If those who abandoned Sri Lanka to adopt a foreign country mind their own business, in where even the shit hole they are in, Sri Lanka would be in much better shape. This includes Gotabhaya Rajapaksa the American Citizen and his brothers who are permanent residents there.

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        Well said!

        I heartily second your proposal that all those who abandoned SL should mind their business and not come to finger in our affairs. Having been to UK, US, Canada and Australia I have noted them living as de-facto second class citizens mercilessly criticising all the faults of their adopted countries when they get a chance but still ashamed to return to their motherland and work to make our country a better place. Oh no they will bring their money and flash it about in Sri Lanka and act like their shit doesn’t smell. They will advise us how to do things but they will also support organisations that will create chaos here; this applies not only to Tamil diaspora, but also to a large number of the Sinhalese. They even have overseas branches of the SLFP, UNP, JP etc. Since they cannot assimilate they have their own little organisations for their benefit. Very soon Abbott and his government will show their true colours and Australia will introduce in all but name a whites only policy just like before. Even Laksiri gets patronised by being called Lucky; his aussie workers won’t pay him the respect due by calling him by his proper name. Laksiri is happy to smile it off – anything for a quiet life among the white folks.

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    Despite Laksiri’s efforts Labor evidently got a drubbing.

    Aussie Dole is at least Seven times our per Capita in Srilanka.

    These people wouldn’t come to rallies or pour on to the streets to please the Politikkas whether they are left right or centre.

    Most of them wouldn’t bother going to the Polling Booth even, if they aren’t slugged with a automatic fine and summons if they dont pay up.

    If Laksiris of the West can wait a bit longer, until our rural poor have a per Capita at least in the vicinity of the Dole, they also may develop Aussie values and Aussie etiquette, which these writers and posters desire and expect from the inhabitants.

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    Laksiri,

    There is no comparison.

    Sri Lanka is a ‘thugocracy’ and Australia is a ‘democaracy’. Compare apples with apples man.

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    I concur with Lasantha Pethiyagoda’s suggestion that a democracy can be sustained only if underpinned by relevant social values. Sri Lanka outside its urban zone is still very much feudal in outlook and this results in letting authoritarian and narcisstic leaders like the present lout to get hold of the public imagination.
    At the same time, one must not forget that Lanka did have much more than a semblance of similarity to Western style democracies before the 1956 floods of Noah. Now I wonder if all that was artificially imposed by personalities like Dudley S etc who were eminently decent guys. If so, then it all points out to the responsibility that leaders have in helping the island on the democratic path.Imagine a crowd like MR, Mervyn, Aluthgamage,Gota, Basil etc doing just that!
    There is another dynamic:in Sri Lanka many persons can earn quicker in politics as the economy is still underdeveloped. In countries like Australia it is all different. malcolm Turnbull comfortably left the Liberal leadership to Tony Abbot. The stakes are thus huge in Lankan politics. Every road built is commission. Every airport or port means commission!This dynamic raises the need to have an iron-clad constitution that can keep checks and balances.
    Lasantha asks the question :”How?” I think we hve some answers already

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    Shyamon J,

    You said that when you were Dehiwala_Galkissa Commissioner you accepted beef from butchers as santhosam!

    Why I mention this is because we cannot be born again guys at our old age and forget what has happened to Sri Lanka at least since 1931. The political system is so corrupt and it was the work of UNP, Dudley, SLFP Sirimavo etc etc.

    There is a solution that you can understand if you listen to Bodu Bala Sena meetings.

    We must openly discuss issues and problems in the country and try for reasonable solutions.

    Since you have no religion you may not know that the Middle Path in Buddhism is the Rule of Law in Australia. As far as I know in the case of USA you can buy rule of law if you have money in 90% cases. How about Australia?

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    Dear professor Laksiri ,

    What are your views about Tony Abbot’s foreign policy towards SL, are they same as Julia Goliard’s or K.Ruuds ? Obviously both Liberals and labor politicians do not want to see Boat people on their door step, that is understandable, but Julia G went extra mile by volunteering to assist MR in CHOGM, will Tony Abbot also follow her foot step by disregarding the monumental human right violations & mayhem happening in SL for trivial politics?

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    Dr. Fernando:
    Thanks for the correction of your own mistake. Isn’t it a shame to abolish the very Senate that helped her to become the Prime Minister in 1960 when she was not an elected legislator? If not for the existence of the Senate, she would not have become the Prime Minister. After SWRD’s death, she handed over nominations to contest the Attanagalle by-election. Magilene de Silva, who’s husband went missing and killed by the security forces too handed over nominations. She knew that during the election campaign, she woyuld have to face very ugly and damaging allegations. Fortunately for her Prime Minister Dahanayake dissolved Parliament and fresh elections were called. Although SLFP leaders wanted her to contest the general elections, she refused and did not contest. Had there been no Senate, C.P. de Silva or Maithriepala Senanayake would have become the Prime Minister. So with the help of the Senate she became the Prime Minister. She later kicked the ladder which helped her to climb to the Premiership. How cruel she was!! (However, after being the Prime Minister for four years only she really faced an election. By that time she was confident of herself to face elections.)

    On JRJ’s idea of political parties nominating members for the seats each party gets, your reference is only to a speech, but under the 1976 Constitution, it was put into practice for local government elections. However, due to opposition that it makes political party hierarchy put their own favourites and not the deserving, it was changes to preferential voting system.
    Isn’t the proportional representation (vis-a-vis the first pass the post)and the preference system (vis-a-vis party selection) are more democratic than the earlier system we had? I believe so, as the proportional system reflects in the Parliament or Council the voter strength each party has. Good examples are the 1956 general election where UNP which had a substantial percentage of votes (probably 30%) but the number in the Parliament reduced to 8 MPs out of 95 MPs elected. Similarly, in the 1977 general elections, SLFP with a fair percentage of votes (Probably 30%) was reduced to 8 MPs out of 168 MP Parliament. SLFP could not even become the leading opposition party in the Parliament and the Leader of the Opposition post went to the Federal Party. Isn’t this a distortion of people’s will? That was one of the biggest drawbacks of the previous system.
    The preferential system gives the voter the choice as to who should represent them. With this system the total representation (in Parliament or Council) is close to number of votes each party receives and the representatives are peoples choices. When the parties have the right to choose those parties nominate their (leader’s) blue-eyed. Ingenuity of Sri Lankans has ruined these fine democratic practices. I know a number of countries practice the proportional representational system and also preferential voting system and these works fine in those countries. In Sri Lanka, we are very cleaver to turn any good thing/ good system/ good method in to something harmful and damaging. That’s what have happened here.
    During Premadasa’s time he proposed and put in to action the American Election Primaries system in selecting party candidates. He did not receive much support from other parties and it was abandoned. If that system was in place it could prevent most of these underworld/ criminal/ anti-social characters being nominated by political parties as they are the choices of party hierarchy.
    Dr. Fernando, I would appreciate it very much if you could give your thoughts on my submission.

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      Mr. Pandith,

      You are largely correct in pointing out the weaknesses or the faults of the previous FPP system. But the PR system is also defective by going to the other extreme. Going from one extreme to the other is one of our common predicaments without following a balanced and/or a middle path. The most rational thinking lately has been to go for a mixed system. You may find some answers from Laksiri Fernando and Dietmar Kneitschel (ed), New Electoral System for Sri Lanka? This contains a number of articles published in 1999. There are other publications as well.

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    Greenway was a winnable seat for the Liberals. They lost because they put forward an inapt candidate Jerame Diaz reportedly much against the wish of Liberal leader Tonny Abbott. This guy made a big gaffe at the start of the campaign and fumbled in an interview to a journalist and became a joke in the face book which went viral. After that he was in hiding and never faced the journalists. He foolishly decided to avoid the community forum meeting in Blacktown where most other candidates including Michelle answered questions from the voters and from media personnel. He became an easy target for the local journalists who hounded him like a pack of hungry wolves. Blacktown local community papers did a fair share of adverse publicity against the Liberal candidate. The local papers and even Channel 7 made him very unpopular and made him unelectable. It was Jamie’s foolish decision to avoid journalists and public forums that was his undoing. Further,he did not answer phone calls. When I personally called his number it went into a recorded message and I had to leave a message for a return call. When the return call came it was not Jamie but some other Liberal party worker.

    Michelle for her credit was there at the rail stations from five in the morning braving the cold winter weather. I have seen her greeting people at rail stations and giving leaflets even at other times during the period she was a Federal MP. She was very persevering and never gave up despite adverse predictions of a white wash for Labour Party in Western Sydney. Though she had the usual Labour support base in Greenway which has a sizeable South Asian immigrant population including Sri Lankan Tamils, she won because of the voters’ antipathy towards the Liberal candidate Jamie Diaz. Had the Liberals put forward a good candidate she would have faced certain defeat because her winning margin at the previous election was just by 700 votes. There were many good prospective candidates who came forward to contest on the Liberal ticket. However, Jamie’s father, a councillor in the Blacktown Council, reportedly stacked the Liberal party pre-selection in favour of his won and got him nominated as the Liberal candidate. Sydney Morning Herald said his pre-selection was much against the wish of Liberal leader Tonny Abbott. I believe Tonny was well aware that Greenway was a winnable seat in the previous 2010 election but Jamie lost just by 700 votes. At that time too Jamie was not much visible to the voters. He did not go door knocking and was rarely seen at the rail stations. I saw him at the rail station only in the last week of the 2010 election.

    I am a strong Liberal supporter and voted for Liberal. In fact I refused to take a leaflet from Michelle Rowland when gave one at the rail station and told her bluntly “No more Labour”. She was with former Premier Nathan Rees and simply smiled.

    The most happy news for me in the just concluded Australian Federal Election is the defeat of John Murphy in the Reid electorate. He was the darling of the LTTE sympathisers and a prominent figure in functions organised by the LTTE front organistions in Sydney. He made speeches critical of Sri Lanka in the Australian Federal Parliament.

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