|Friday, 26 December 2003|
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Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratna was right when he was seen on TV recently to say that all the talk of consensus demanded on one side or the other of the political spectrum was only a ruse to trick the adversary into hegemony. Here is how to reach consensus without hegemony.
All MPs to form the Government - 'Government without Opposition' as Mr. Rauf Hakeem once mentioned, without offering a clue on how to do it. The Government thus constituted to take all decisions in the legislature by "consensus", construed to mean a majority percentage at any suitable limit to vary from 60 to 75 per cent, the difference to signify a margin of tolerance for conscientious dissent.
The motor to work the above methodology lie in the following imperative sanctions for failure of a vote at the level of the requisite majority, namely:
i. Dissolution of Parliament forthwith, and
ii. Disarment of the totality of the membership at the time from standing for re-election to Parliament, either for life, or a minimum period of, say ten years.
In order to promote better rapport between membership of the legislature and the constituency in the above context, the sexennial elections could be broken down to biennial elections of one-third of the membership at a time on the basis of "least to poll, first to go". Political divisiveness under this system will permanently vanish from the face of the earth, and all politicians will have to learn to "GOVERN" by sinking lesser differences for the sake of the highest common factor of agreement - or just "GET OUT" for their recalcitrance.
This is not the first time the undersigned has mooted this idea in the press. Even if only a "rough diamond" in the form first suggested, it is hoped someone could lend it the necessary polish to enable its adoption in practical politics. Once so adopted, politics will never be the same again. It would go to form a revolutionary advance in the long history of the evolution of parliamentary democracy.
Another very important factor would be the implanting upon such a single 'Government without Opposition' the Committee System first introduced by a Donoughmore Constitution which often has been praised as a mode of consensus governance - how exactly to get it working having never been known to-date.
Once public perceptions advance as to the practical workability of the first suggestion, the like workability of engrafting the Executive Committee System to it, should lead the way to the adoption of both as the one sure methodology that could lift Sri Lankan politics out of its present slough of despond.
The shift from compulsive divisiveness as at present to no less compulsive harmony must render the system inescapably compelling.
I refer to the recent brazen statement attributed to the leader of the Sihala Urumaya faction. He had boasted that, if they had an anti aircraft missile, they would not have hesitated to shoot down the helicopter carrying Chris Patten, the European Union Commissioner! It is indeed amazing, but not surprising, that no action seems to have been taken against the concerned leader for this naked, terrorist statement.
A few weeks ago some chauvinists nearly wrecked a joint Sinhala-Tamil cultural event by storming the ceremony hall with impunity and with deadly weapons. They succeeded in attacking and injuring some of the participants. Although the police eventually managed to contain the violence, their action was belated and weak.
Alas, these are but two recent examples of the different applications of the rule of law for the different communities. Time and again, the law for the Sinhala goose has, if at all, been applied loosely and softly, with considerable delays, whereas the application for the Tamil gander has largely been forceful and deadly.
Meanwhile, the pundits trumpet worldwide that Sri Lanka is a democratic and pluralistic country with impeccable credentials; and that many Tamils are terrorists. Tamils who dare to question the way they are treated are branded 'Tigers'; and all Tigers are referred to as terrorists. The experts should pause to examine who the real terrorists are.
The preferential voting system which has caused a great deal of violence at election times may have been the reason for the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform. It is my submission that the preferential system is democratically desirable.
The intention of those who formulated this system may have been to ensure, that those who are elected to parliament or other political institutions are those who has the confidence of the people and are, therefore, true representatives of the people.
But it is in the implementation of this system that has caused all the undemocratic behaviour and rivalry even among the candidates of the same party. Whatever solution that will be proposed should not be like the proverbial "changing the pillow to cure the headache".
Let us briefly examine the good and the shortcomings of the earlier system of the 'first past the post system' of elections.
It was easy for the voter to understand and simple to implement. The person who got the most number of votes was duly elected as the representative of a specific electorate. The people of the electorate knew who their representative was and the representative worked to ameliorate the problems of that electorate.
But the drawback is that this system is not quite democratic even though it is practised in the UK even now. They too will have to sooner than later find a method to cater to the growing ethnic groups in the UK. Let me demonstrate this contention by an example.
I would like to suggest the following simple amendments to the present preferential system whilst preserving its essence.
(a) The people will be required to vote only for the Party. This will be simple for the voter to understand and the number of spoilt votes will be minimal.
(b) Each political party will prepare a list of candidates for each electoral district and file it with the Commissioner of Elections before the elections.
(c) After election results are announced and when the number of seats that each party will be entitled to is declared by the EC, it is from this list of candidates that each party will nominate the names of the candidate to be declared elected.
All the candidates in the list will be allocated by the respective political party an electorate within the district for them to canvass the voters. If those electorates are lost to other political parties, then that candidate will not be selected from the list filed with the EC. This will effectively eliminate rivalry among the candidates of their party as happens now.
This will spur all candidates to work to get the party to win in each electorate.
Let me demonstrate this by an example.
Data: District Colombo No. of registered voters: 2,000,000 No. of votes cast: 1,800,000 No. of spoilt votes 50,000 No. of valid votes: 1,750,000
Results: No. of seats Won Party A 600,000 17 Party B 625,000 18 Party C 250,000 7 Party D 188,000 5 Party E 87,000 3 Total 1,750,000 50
On these results, the respective parties will submit the names of the candidates to be elected as MPs. The names will be selected on the basis of results of each electorate and the possible accusation of favouritism by the party will be eliminated.
It is my submission that whatever system is decided upon, it should not complicate the voter. When the system is complicated, the number of spoilt votes will rise.
P. S. MAHAWATTE
Asian Tribune has revealed some interesting information in regard to the recent visit of Chris Patten to the island. Chris Patten in a statement he had released, has stated that it was the Norwegian facilitators who urged him to visit Killinochchi to meet Velupillai Prabakaran.
On his birthday on November 26 and no member of the Sri Lankan Government tried to deter him. In his report he appears to have stated Sri Lanka Government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe too had a hand in this affair.
We now learn that Norway's representative in Colombo Hans Brattskar was with Chris Patten in the hotel room, on the very day he arrived in Colombo. It is quite clear that Norwegians regularly continue to interfere with the internal affairs of the country.
It is heartening to hear Patten stating "I understand very well the reservations of those who have expressed distaste for contacts with those who have blood on their hands. In the UK I have seen friends and colleagues murdered by terrorists and I yield to no one in my absolute rejection of violence as an instrument to achieve political objectives."
It is now clear as Asian Tribune points out, the whole show was staged managed by Norway. There are two points of interest that emerges from this article.
The first is that Norwegians seem to relish in interfering with our internal affairs and is an active partner in the achievement of the end objectives of the LTTE. They can no longer be assessed as impartial or fair.
In fact LTTE started riding a high horse after Norwegians turned a blind eye to violations of the MoU by LTTE. At the same time, it is no excuse for a person of Patten's standing to convey the mpression of his innocence by offering reasons that are so naive.
Patten too has blood in his hands and those who have blood stained hands cannot expect equity. His conduct in this matter is as bad as Norwegians if not worse and the Sinhalese will not forget his misdeeds
no matter what he says.
It is time for the President and Prime Minister to state clearly that Sri Lanka no longer depends on people who have a biased mind. We have much to learn from that person of honour Mr. Swamy who has had an immacualate record of consistency.
In Sri Lanka, power struggle has been constantly taking place at various levels. there has been power struggle and grabbing of power between the Executive and legislature. This has its repercussions namely delay in the peace process, isolation of the peace facilitator, and suspension of financial aid by World Bank and IMF.
Now, power struggle has erupted among the so-called freedom fighters for the Tamils i.e. TNA says that its aim and end is to fight for the rights of the Tamils. If that is the case, why should there be power struggle within the TNA. They can forget their differences and fight for the common cause. There is power struggle within the party - one is trying to oust the other.
How can they fight for the right of the Tamils, when the members themselves fight among themselves for power and position. They are not in a position to settle their problems to grab power. If they can't settle their fight among themselves, how can they fight for the rights of the Tamils - This is the question posed by the Tamil community at large.
People laugh at them. Fighting among themselves is a matter for laughter by the others. They make a sheer mockery of themselves in the eyes of the others. This is a candid opinions of the Tamils.
S. SABA SUBRAMANIAM.
Produced by Lake House