• Last Update 2022-09-25 09:32:00

Discussion paper for urgent electoral changes

Opinion

By Percy Thenuwara

This year has been very bad for our country facing so many problems after successfully controlling the pandemic, but exhausting our resources thereafter due to mismanagement of governance and the economy. 

Sri Lankans and the rest of the world are aware of this situation now. No point in wasting our valuable time going into the history of our bankruptcy, but we have to create awareness among our people on how to avoid such situations in the future.

As all development decisions are made in our Supreme Parliament by our elected representatives, we must first address our minds to our democratic electoral system. Therefore, we must go for some radical changes in our electoral process urgently.

Hence some points raised below may be considered a solution.

  1. Elect 25 all-island MPs at the general elections on the proportional representation system to represent the 25 districts. They will be elected by the total voting population. They will have to indicate their choice of district in the candidate application. The one who polls the highest number of votes in that district will become the MP for the district and also the District Minister. They will form the Cabinet and will represent the country on all policy matters.  As this group will form the Cabinet, each district will have a Cabinet Minister!

This system will encourage educated, capable and patriotic Sri Lankans without any religious, ethnic bias or political bias to participate in the electoral process! People of some standing who have succeeded in life and want to give back more to the people and the country could come forward to contest in future elections! At the same general elections, other 225 MPs will be elected either on the proposed mixed-electoral system or any other suitable system? The number of MPs will then go up to 250. The present National List MP system needs to be repealed as all MPs representing the people must be elected by the people and also subjected to removal on a Recall system by the People! (Explained in item 5.)

The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister shall be elected by the 250 MPs in parliament in a secret vote.

A major concern may be the high costs of countrywide elections. The cost can be controlled through an electronic online voting system to be developed on available technology!

This proposal will pave the way for elections devoid of party politics. (Party politics has led us to more problems than solutions! However, if the existing parties want to support any individual of their choice, they may do so as it is very difficult to get rid of the current system of party politics for some time. Therefore, we may have to allow it to fade away through the successful implementation of this new system.

  1. Any SL Citizen with a minimum university degree education aged over 30, depositing a fee of Rs. 500,000 can apply for the all-island election. (50% of this deposit -- Rs.250,000 -- will be refunded for winning candidates. Same conditions apply for Other 225 candidates, but the deposit fee may be reduced to Rs.100,000 and made non-refundable! (An independent committee may be appointed by the Election Commission to recommend more suitable restrictions such as the condition that the candidate should be free from convictions regarding criminal activities and corruption, to limit the number of applications.
  2. The new PM and Deputy PM should be elected by a secret vote of the 250 MPs. As we do not really need two heads to rule this small country, it is recommended that we abolish the executive presidency which has resulted in immense problems for the country. Instead, we can let Parliament elect the PM and the Deputy PM by majority vote. Preferably a minority MP can be elected as Deputy PM.  Why not abolish all present regional administrative bodies operated by elected members and introduce a new regional administrative operation by Public Officials under sectoral Committees presided over by Ministers or MPs appointed by a majority vote in Parliament. Or we can revert to the former GA system or an entirely new system suitable to address the needs of our country. However, the local government system can continue under the Public Officials’ administration. We will be savings billions of rupees by minimising political representatives and abolishing Provincial and local councils? We can used the money we save for our urgent development work. (It is said that regional political administrative bodies have become a breeding ground for corruption and wasteful expenditure. So their abolition may result in minimizing corruption.
  3. Each candidate will submit his/her manifesto at the election, giving a summary of his/her plans and proposals.
  4. If any candidate fails to achieve at least 50% of the pledges given in his/her manifesto by midterm, they can be recalled (unseated) by a majority vote of the people! This ‘PEOPLE’s RECALLING POWER’ is used in many countries now under a Recalling Act. (It is time that we too introduce such an Act and create a new electronic voting system also for election and rejection of representatives by the People.
  5. If such a new electoral system can be worked out without the present party political system, Provincial/Regional/ Councils, Governors, etc. giving all policy implementation powers to the PM and Parliament, can't we have some hopes for the revival of OUR ECONOMY & THE COUNTRY?

No doubt, our good old public sector -- subject to some re-structuring, with key positions given on merit, leaving no room for corrupt practices while patriotic professionals and businessmen being in the Sectoral Committees in advisory capacity – will rise to the occasion to deliver goods !

  1. Isn't it time to consider some drastic changes in line with above suggestions so as to assure 'people's supremacy' and develop new systems for Good Governance? Give Priority to change the prevalent import-dependent economy to an Export-led economy? Create a 'New Economic Policy ' to promote public/private joint venture projects. Why not emphasize on export-oriented new joint venture investments between the public and private sectors and also foreign-funded joint venture export industries? (On 51% SL and 49% foreign basis.) 

Let us introduce the powerful slogan “EXPORT OR PERISH” in all our future industrial projects so that we can earn the foreign exchange needed by our country.

  1. Why should we preach so much on foreign aid and selling of our rights to foreigners and foreign nations without even looking at our own mistakes in the past and turn the 'searchlight' inwards to expose the REALITY? 

Instead of 'The Blame Game' continued for the past 75 years, we really need a good approach toward a new constitution and an electoral process devoid of corrupt party politics and too much political representation. Bring forward the real 'Supremacy of People’ into the selection/election and rejection process of their representatives, enforcing 'the Recalling Power' to get rid of the 'corrupt politicos'! Let us all make an effort to make necessary proposals to bring a ‘System Change’ urgently as it will be NOW OR NEVER!

(The writer is a former Director of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, General Manager of Shell Gas Company and director BOI & Export Development Board: Email - perthenu79@gmail.com)

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