Doing away with PR system
The brutal attack on former UNP Parliamentarian
Palitha Range Bandara by a fellow UNP candidate at the General
Election over the manapey has once again brought into focus the
evil spawned by the Preferential voting system. The former
Puttalam District Parliamentarian is now in hospital with
grievous injuries. His is not the only ordeal in the manapey
battle that is still raging even after the conclusion of the
Television showed several scenes where supporters of
candidates of the same party lying in hospital swathed in
bandages - the result of the manapey war. Elections today has
become a blood sport in Sri Lanka and immediate measures are
called for before this trend begins to spiral beyond the control
of the authorities.
We say this because the rancour and bitterness during
electioneering is likely to leave a lasting scar that would
affect the social fabric of this country. New divisions are
bound to be created in the aftermath of elections among people
of the same community as the aftertaste of the manapey battle.
This has now assumed such dangerous proportions, so much so,
that politicians who are considered mature and intelligent too
do not fight shy of rough tactics in staking their claim.
A weekend newspaper reported how fisticuffs broke out between
supporters of four former Ministers (considered suave and
educated) in the Colombo District counting Centre over who
received the most preferences, in their battle to secure the
final slot in the winners' list. The election campaign itself
saw how internecine battles raged for the manapeywith candidates
fighting in the open even in the presence of the President. This
shows the extent to which the rivalry has developed over the
manapey. It has transformed into a no holds barred battle with
all decencies and niceties thrown to the winds. What example are
we showing the younger generation?
Besides the manapey battle is also likely to cause bad blood
among fellow MPs from the same party. We saw how strident the
manapey battle became between two prominent ex-Ministers vying
for the top slot in a particular district. The fall out of such
battles could well result in non-cooperation between Cabinet
colleagues to the detriment of the country.
All this calls for an urgent need to do away with the PR
system, that has only infused rancour and bitterness into the
country's electioneering set up. The PR system was introduced by
J R Jayewardene to keep the UNP in perpetual power not
visualizing the evil genie that was to be released. This has now
assumed serious proportions leading to a fractured polity. It
has not just alienated candidates of the same political party
but has also divided their supporters within the same
constituency. Nay it has fractured entire communities.
This is hardly the recipe for the unity that is needed among
all to take the country forward in this post war era. The
manapey battle has now seeped through to divide to cause
divisions not just on party lines but also spawning personal
animosities which is a threat to peaceful co-existence of the
community at large not to mention the social fabric as a whole.
Time was when elections were peaceful affairs where the voter
had only a single choice to make. All political parties pulled
in one direction to get their party elected. There were no
sideshows such as the manapey race.
At present while candidates strive to make the party
victorious they also go for each other's jugular for the manapey.
This has not only caused ill will all round but also gives a bad
name to the leaders of political parties not to mention the
image of the country portrayed to the outside world.
Even today there is a mad scramble of candidates to top the
manapey lists on the basis that this will bring them Ministerial
posts in the next Cabinet. It is therefore appropriate that
President Rajapaksa had forewarned his candidates that high
preferences would mean nothing.
Now one of his foremost priorities should be to introduce
election reforms that would bring in the old first past the post
system or a mix with the PR in order to arrest the growing trend
of violence during electioneering leading to a fractured polity.
The Opposition too which has become a victim of the manapey war
should lend all support to change the system.