Follow up open letter to peaceful and intelligent youth of ‘Aragalaya’ on critical ‘System changes’ prior to next Election

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1.0 Preamble

1.1 The writer invites the kind attention of the young, intelligent and peaceful youth of the ‘Aragalaya’ to his open letter on the above subject addressed to them through the National press. As a Sovereign voter, the writer cannot help thanking them again and again for opening the doors for ‘system Changes’ in our Electoral System/Process that has failed to meet the silent voter expectations for the last 74 years. 

1.2 The writer having identified many failures of the existing Electoral System/Process, in relation to its avowed objectives, did propose Reforms/system changes through the Press and direct communication to the relevant bodies, several times over the last decade without much constructive response from the concerned authorities or voter dedicated civil organizations.

1.3 Under item 5.2 of your six point programme published in the Press, you have very correctly emphasized on the dire need for a ‘Free and fair Electoral system’. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to fast-track critical ‘System changes’ to the existing Electoral System/Process, based on National unity, Fairness, Result Accuracy and  Meritocracy championing a true Sri Lankan Democracy, as summarized below, for your recollection. 

Summary of ‘System changes’ to the existing Electoral System/Process

i) Comply with UN declared democratic ‘Equality of Vote’ and promote ‘Sri Lankan-ness’ by changing the basis for accurately calculating the number of seats won by contesting Parties.

ii) Ensure selection of ‘Political Professionals’ as Peoples’ Representatives’ by stipulating standardized mandatory eligibility and Interview/selection criteria.

iii) Simplify, existing Mixed Member Voting (MMVsystem) by the National Elections Commission (NEC) introducing 3 separate choice lists for parties favouring District-wise Merit lists, Electorate- wise Merit lists and Central Pool lists to register the names of their candidates.

iv) Sustain true and permanent ‘Sri Lankan ness’ and National unity with multi party representation at the highest Cabinet level. The Sri-Lankan-ness exhibited at the ‘Aragala Bhoomiya’ and elsewhere in the country, yearns for the installation of a ‘Permanent Multi- Party Govt.’ (PMPG) by true Sri Lankans irrespective of Race, Religion and caste. Therefore, to reach such ultimate level of ‘Sri Lankan-ness’ and Unity, allocate the constitutionally specified number of Cabinet (30) and State (40) Ministers, to seat winning parties by applying % arithmetic so that several Main Parties will be represented in the Cabinet, creating a ‘Permanent National Govt.’ bereft of ‘deal’ politics. The port-folios can be allocated by consensus among the Party leaders, and the Prime Minister. However, the above Cabinet numbers are not applicable to an ‘Interim Govt. 

v) Ensure Women/Youth Representation (20% each) at National and Province level by stipulating mandatory
‘pre-interview’ marks.

vi) Ensure representation of all communities in the Parliament by the NEC stipulating transparent mandatory criteria and structured interviews in keeping with the times, for 29 ‘National list’ MPs to meet the latter objective plus their individual expertise/Intellect. 

vii) Facilitate a productive and a robust political culture sans corruption by banning the ‘Crossover’ mockery constitutionally and allowing parties to nominate candidates of their choice from their relevant registered lists to fill vacancies, based on prevailing demands thereby avoiding high cost by- elections.

viii) Secure a ‘level playing field’ for contesting parties and give an opportunity for highly deserving but financially weak applicants by imposing a robust limit for ‘Campaign finance’ of Parties. The Party hierarchy at Head Office level shall take ownership of the entire ‘Election campaign’ finances subject to strict environment
friendly criteria.

ix) Reduce voter confusion and wasteful printing expenditure by discouraging entry of spurious political parties/Independent groups through stringent qualifying criteria & high cash deposits leading to shorter
ballot papers.

x) Ensure acceptance of ‘Party Election Manifesto’ as the principal document   for voter decision by branding it as an acceptable, prosecutable document monitored by a robust regulatory /audit procedure, which ensures full implementation of Election Manifesto of the
wining Party.

 xi) Ensure Cost- effectiveness and productivity of the system by holding Countrywide General, PC and LG Elections on legally specified dates. Further, ‘system changes’ such as, abolition of Executive Presidency, Preference Voting system, and  ‘Cross-overs’; Limits for ‘Campaign  Finance’; Specific role definitions and salary /benefits for MPs/ PC and LG members determined by Independent Commissions and De-politicization of LG Elections  will surely amass  massive savings in Expenditure, Labour and time leading to high productivity. The writer’s proposals for a rational, low-cost, simple method for PC/LG Elections have already been published in the press.  

xii) Convert irreversible Provincial Councils to more effective units with extra powers (if necessary) and specific role responsibilities, working under the direction and supervision of a Parliament and PC elected Governor General working through Provincial Governors to ensure a balanced Provincial development. This ‘system change’ will limit the role of National level MPs to meet specific objectives of the Parliament.
 Note: When the role of the ‘225’ MPs is limited to meet the real objectives of a National Parliament. Viz. Law and Policy making plus full responsibility for Public Finances through formulation, approval and monitoring of Annual and Decentralized Budgets, the provision of Luxury Duty free vehicles and related fringe benefits will become redundant for MPs. 

An Independent Commission should be charged with the responsibility to determine Salaries and all pecuniary and other fringe benefits to all Ministers and all politicians occupying positions.

 xiii) Ensure fair and uncorrupt assistance to people through the Local   Govt. Machinery by de-politicizing the Local Govt. Elections and allowing respectable, sociable and honest ‘Independent’ candidates from the locality to contest on the lines of the
‘Grama Rajya’ concept.

Abolition of Executive Presidency

i) Firstly, repeal the 20 A and restore 19 A after suitable changes together with additional clauses by approving 21 /22 A in order to prevent dictatorial powers under 20 A being used by the President appointed for the unexpired period of the current Presidency.  
ii)  As abolition of ‘Executive Presidency’ ‘would require a Referendum, formally adopt a specific time framed resolution for Abolition of Executive Presidency paving the way for a Parliament and PC elected Statesman as ‘Governor General cum Commander-in-chief with limited powers’, concurrently with 21/22 A. (The Referendum can be held concurrently with the General and/or PC Election by March/April 2023 to ensure cost-effectiveness)
iii) Approve 22 /23 A to abolish Executive Presidency and install a ‘Parliament and PC elected ‘Governor General’ as stated above, undertaking responsibility to ensure implementation of Parliament approved Decentralized Budgets through Provincial Governors (Refer 8.0 above) and such other programmes in the ‘Election Manifesto’ of the Governing Party. 
iv) The above amendments should receive immediate priority of the
‘Interim All-Party Govt.’ 

Approval of Critical ‘system changes’ to Electoral System/Process

i. Given the rapidly changing behavior of the current ‘225’, the aforesaid package of ‘Electoral system changes’ plus related changes should also go into statute Books during the tenure of the ‘Interim All-Party Govt.’ to enable holding of General/PC Election/Referendum as mentioned in 3ii) above, to comply with the clarion call by ‘People’s Power’. 
ii. In the event, Supreme Court specifies clauses in the above package requiring a Referendum, such clauses also can be included for approval at the same aforesaid Referendum for abolition of Executive Presidency. If critical objectives can be met, the General Election may be conducted with the enaction of all other ‘System changes’, pending results of the Referendum.

The writer is a former Deputy General Manager-BOC and
can be contacted on email: [email protected]

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Disclaimer: Follow up open letter to peaceful and intelligent youth of ‘Aragalaya’ on critical ‘System changes’ prior to next Election - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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