Small parties demand more seats
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution to bring in much- awaited
electoral reforms in Sri Lanka seems to be now in its final lap before
While the number of seats that should constitute the new Parliament,
whether it should be 225, 237 or 255, remains the main issue among the
political parties, the minority and minor parties strongly opposed the
draft proposals approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on Monday. It was
submitted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and called for a 225
Their voice compelled the Government to call a hurried cabinet
meeting on Friday and approve a revised draft increasing the number of
seats to 237 - to elect 145 Parliamentarians under the first past the
post system, 55 under the district proportional representation system
and to select 37 from the national list. It still fell short of the 255
seat parliament sought by the minor and minority political parties.
The Sunday Observer spoke to a number of the minor and minority
parties last week as to their aspirations and concerns regarding the
proposed electoral system. The following comments were made prior to the
Cabinet decision on Friday. Later most of the parties said they welcomed
the revision as a positive sign but refused to come down from their
original demand for a 255-seat parliament under the 20-A.
Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader, Mano Ganesan: There has been
a school of thought that minority parties are blocking the 20th
amendment from becoming a part of the Constitution of the country. This
is a wrong assumption. We also want the electoral reforms to do away
with the preferential voting system. We too want MPs to represent
specific electorates. But don't ignore the positive side of the current
The formula in the original presidential document is FPP 165+ DPR 31+
NPR 59 making a total of 255. The minorities were assured that new
single member and multi member electorates will be carved out by the
delimitation commission. We thought we had arrived at a consensus on a
system which will do justice to minor and minority parties. But suddenly
to the surprise of all of us the formula changed on Monday evening at
the special cabinet meeting. A new formula was introduced. The new
formula is FPP 125+ DPR 75+ NPR 25 to a total of 225.(since Friday it
has been revised to 237 seats)
The FPP 125 dismisses all hopes because with 125 FPP seats we cannot
create new electorates. The high point for us is the delimitation
process. The last delimitation held in year 1976. The population of the
country at that time was 7.5 million. Now after 40 years, we have passed
20 million. We were hoping on the delimitation commission to be
established through 20A. We are yet to get the presidential assurances
over the de-limitation process that it would be conducted impartially.
It is another subject. But we are worried that de-limitation commission
cannot perform with this 125 FPP seats even if it wants to perform
TPA is looking forward to meet the president. the new formula is
nothing but suicidal to the minor parties.
An increase of 30 seats is necessary to accommodate the overhangs in
the new system proposed by the president.
National Organiser, JHU, Nishantha Warnasinghe: From the inception,
JHU was the only minor party that welcomed electoral reforms to replace
the much criticised Preferential system. Subsequently, all minor and
minority parties in consultation with the main political parties agreed
on a basic structure for the 20A where the number of seats were to be
increased to 255. Even the Elections commissioner opined that it is not
feasible to reduce the number of electorates due to many factors.
Here in the proposal by the Prime Minister, it calls for a reduction
in the existing number of electorates.
In 1978, when the present electoral system with 225 seats was first
introduced, there were only 7.5 million voters but today it has exceeded
We oppose this move by the Government, which shows complete disregard
for the aspirations of the minor and minority parties. Once the Bill
reaches parliament, we will fight it and get the necessary amendments
pushed in. We feel that the UNP is trying to sabotage the entire process
by submitting a set of proposals that no one can agree.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R.Sampanthan We are unable to
respond with any certainty because we do not know what exactly the 20A
entail. A copy of the paper submitted to the Cabinet have not been made
available to us up to date. So we do not know quite exactly what that
Reduction of seats
The TNA is primarily concerned with the possibility of the reduction
of seats in the North and East, especially in the Jaffna electoral
district where on account of a large number of deaths and physical
displacements the voting strength has been reduced.
We think that the people who have been displaced and who are now
prevented by the armed forces from returning to their land should be
able to resettle in their lands and until then the status quo should
prevail in regard to the number of seats in the Jaffna electoral
district. We are also concerned with the position of the minority
people, particularly the Tamil, the Muslims and the Indian Tamils
outside the North and East, we would like to ensure that their
representation in parliament is proportionate to their electoral
The proposed reduction in the number of constituencies, is a matter
of concern and what exactly the primary shape of the electorate is not
very clear still, so all these matters will have to receive our
attention before we can take a final decision and act.
Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) Leader Prof.Tissa Vitarana The 20th
Amendment what was presented to the Cabinet is basically not the
document which we discussed and the agreed on.
The agreement reached was that it should be increased to total of MPs
to 255 and this would enable the Delimitation Commission to make a
detailed study and get the reaction of the people and the politicians
and re-demarcate constituencies in a reasonable manner that would be
fair for the voter. The population has doubled since the number of 225
was fixed so there has to be a larger number and it was agreed on. What
we said was within that limitation, the number of seats should be kept
as far as possible close to 160. I am very sorry to say that the
decision taken by the UNP dominated Cabinet is not the decision that
various parties and Party Leaders discussed among ourselves. Therefore
this should be reconsidered.
Communist Party Leader D.E.W. Gunasekara We are broadly in agreement
with the draft presented to the Cabinet by the President. We may not
agree with it 100 percent. This is a matter where all the parties should
agree and reach a compromise. A draft cannot be formulated where just
one party is agreeable.
The acceptable features are 165 seats from the First Past the Post
System and other number of seats from District Proportional and National
Proportional Systems. If we take all districts, each party has gained
more MPs. These are the three main features. The delimitation is done to
accommodate all ethnic, cultural and national interests of the people.
In Galle district, the Karandeniya seat has been removed and amalgamated
either with Balapitiya or Ambalangoda. The people will come to the
conclusion that they have been completely neglected.
JVP Colombo District Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti The JVP agrees
to effect changes to the present electoral system. Our stand is that the
preferential system should be done away paving the way to elect
qualified people to Parliament. We have already presented our proposals
to the government. Our main concern is that proposed electoral reforms
should be brought into the implementation level as early as possible
through the consensus reach upon with other political parties. This
should not be further dragged on wasting time. Even though these
electoral reforms are made, the next election can be held under the
existing system. First, we would like to know whether two main parties,
the UNP and SLFP have reached a compromise on these electoral reforms.