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Delimitation issue no excuse

Civil society demands 20A be presented in Parliament without delay:

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 Amendment.


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 election.

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.

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