Delimitation issue no excuse
Civil society demands 20A be presented in Parliament
The demand for electoral reforms has been gathering momentum, with a
large segment of civil society demanding that the 20th Amendment to the
Constitution that paves the way to abolish the much criticised
preferential voting system, be introduced in Parliament as a matter of
urgency. On Thursday (May 28) several prominent public figures, who
participated in a Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) media
event, reiterated the demand, deeming that the delimitation issue was
being used as an excuse to deliberately delay the passage of the
There has to be a change
What we experienced in 1960, 1965 and 1970 elections as
administrative officers were turned upside down in 1977. We all had to
switch into that system as it was a constitutional process. Under the
present preferential system, money has become an essential component to
win an election.
If somebody attempts to engage in politics entirely based on money,
he would never succeed in his political career. It would end up as a
tragedy and we have experienced it in the past. Someone could blatantly
abuse the preferential voting system if he or she is fabulously rich.
But all such wrongdoings happened under the pretext of politics. How is
democracy restored in a district when the concepts of democracy is
destroyed? We should ensure discipline for the future generation. We
should make an attempt to do away with this distorted system.
If any people-centred amendment is to be made, the past
electorate-based system should be highly applied for the electoral
process. There is a large number of voters in Maharagama, Kesbewa and
Avissawella electorates. When we look at the past election results,
there would have been instances where these three electorates were
deprived of having an elected MP. We all admit that there has to be a
change in the electoral system and we all should contribute to implement
this. The Cabinet approval has already been given to the 20th Amendment.
It has been submitted to President, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader
to formulate the final draft.
There is a clamour for the amendment
Extensive discussions were held over the past few weeks on new
electoral reforms. The final draft on the proposed electoral reforms was
discussed by the Cabinet on May 27.
President Maithripala Sirisena has been entrusted to make the final
decision on the proposed electoral system. Political parties have
realised the importance of such a process.
At a special meeting of the Pivithuru Hetak Organisation last week,
Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, civil
organisations and politicians representing various political parties
stressed the need to implement the 20th Amendment. There is a clamour
for the introduction of this crucial amendment. It is the responsibility
of the President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and all
Parliamentarians to ensure that happens.
President Sirisena has a genuine desire to introduce electoral
reforms and to conduct future elections under a new system. The 20th
Amendment has incorporated all proposals put forward by minor political
parties and other pressure groups, paving the way for a simple electoral
system. According to the protests made, we can clearly identify those
who oppose this democratic move and why they are calling for a snap
Those who were dragging their feet regarding the introduction of the
20th Amendment now face a severe political crisis within their own
parties. There is another group who have earned a massive amount of
money and plan to become people's representatives soon. Even before the
parliament is dissolved and nominations are given, they have commenced
their election campaign. The electoral system introduced under the 1978
constitution has opened avenues to promote popular figures into
politics. They are campaigning to safeguard this corrupt preferential
system. But the people who are clamouring for democratic changes and
oppose exploiting the public mandate are raising their voice in favour
of these electoral reforms.
Voters have no trust in the present system
It is the state officers who run the Elections Department four days
prior to the election and three days after. Everybody can see the
hardships faced by government officials due to this complicated
preferential system. Perhaps the intention of this preferential system
may be to create a dignified parliament. But even school children are
amazed at certain incidents that take place inside the parliament. Such
an unfavourable situation has been created in parliament due to present
preferential voting system.
Before 1978, election based NGOs were not in the country. The
election related NGOs are now making a lot of effort to ensure the
voting rights of the people. They are compelled to do that owing to the
issues created by the preferential system. At present voters have no
trust on the electoral system. Under the prevailing electoral system,
the number voted has been reduced. That is why we need to pass the 20th
Amendment to change this electoral system.
Appoint Delimitation Commission
At present the election mechanism has become more complicated. As a
result, those who handle it have encountered a series of problems. Those
who attempt to scuttle the enacting of 20th Amendment attempt point out
that the Delimitation Commission has become an impediment to pass this
legislation. To mislead the public, they say it would take a long time
to appoint this Delimitation Commission. The process of the Delimitation
Commission can be completed within two months. Therefore, the
Delimitation Commission should be appointed without any further delay.
It consists only five members and Election Commissioner functions as its
Secretary. Certain sections who obstruct to pass the 20th Amendment also
say that it would take at least one year for the people to get used to
the new system. All these are baseless arguments put forward to sabotage
this process. We request to pass this legislation as early as possible
and produce a Member of Parliament who is directly responsible to the
people by doing away with the present preferential voting system.