The voters could not keep some lucky guys out of parliament

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Former Deputy Minister of Power and Energy Athula Nimalasiri Jayasinghe who lost the last parliamentary elections in December is a lucky man. The voters could not keep him out of parliament.

Despite suffering a heavy defeat, he is an "honourable member" enjoying all privileges enjoyed by elected MPs.

Jayasinghe contested the Gampaha district and managed to obtain only 39,213 preference votes. He was just another politician rejected by the people. But not by President Chandrika Kumaratunga who named him a national list MP in place of a politician who was in the original list. It was just one example the way our politicians have taken advantage of the national list to ensure their yes-men will not be denied the opportunity to enter parliament.

Appointing a politician through the national list is one thing. But making way for an unsuccessful candidate, thereby disappointing another included in the original national list is a brazen act which should be condemned by all right thinking people.

"There is nothing illegal in sending a defeated candidate to parliament through the national list," says a senior Elections Department official, explaining that the 1978 Constitution has made provision for such appointments. He said that political parties will take advantage of the provision as long as the Constitution allows it.

I believe the person who makes the appointment should be held responsible. Such ridiculous appointments have contributed immensely to the present state of our politics.

There is no doubt that Jayasinghe is a veteran politician whose pivotal role in the formation of the JVP and subsequent involvement in the 1971 insurgency resulted in the then government charging him before the Criminal Justice Commission. He was held in custody until 1975. Two years later he joined the SLFP-led United Front government and was successful in obtaining the post of Mahara organiser. Years later he contested the provincial council elections and won a seat in the Western Provincial Council as a member of the MEP. Jayasinghe is apparently indispensable.

Vadivel Puthrasigamani ran from the Nuwara Eliya district. He polled just 10,261 preference votes. He was nowhere near the winners or even the losers. But he had an arrangement with the SLFP-led PA. It guaranteed him a place even if he loses the contest in the Nuwara Eliya district where the UNP-led United National Front (UNF) routed the PA.

Partymen have expressed anger and disbelief that the PA dropped those in the original list in a controversial bid to accommodate losers.

Of the 29 national list slots, the PA secured only 11. Two of them went to Jayasinghe and Puthrasigamani. Who were dropped from the original national list to accommodate the blue eyed boys? The PA ignored-ex ministers, Batty Weerakoon, Alavi Moulana and Kingsley Wickremaratne along with Sumithra Peiris, Leslie Gunawardene, Geethanjana Gunawardene, Mohammed Abdul Raheem, Lincoln Christopher Rajan, T. Sivakumaran, Hemal Gunasekera, Mohammed Rauff, Chandima Weerakkody, Indrani P. Alvapillai, Rajaratnam Udayakumar, Abdul Majeed, Mohammed Amthaj, W. H. Piyadasa and Jagath Narampotha.

The PA betrayed veteran politician Moulana. His non-inclusion was evidence the party leadership did not care as long as their people somehow found their way to parliament. He was furious but did not want to rock the boat. But his colleague and LSSP leader Batty Weerakoon took an entirely different view. He promptly filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal challenging the non-inclusion of an LSSP representative in the final list of MPs chosen through the national list. Weerakoon angrily pointed out that there had been an agreement among PA constituents to appoint a LSSPer through the national list. He charged that the agreement has been breached.

However, the PA found space for Weerakoon’s colleague Raja Collure. PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne who submitted the final list of chosen MPs to Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake did not contest the last parliamentary elections. He was among the 29 national list nominees (in the original list) I have no doubt if he contested the Kandy district, he would have suffered the same fate as Jayasinghe and Puthrasigamani. If that happened another in the original list would have to sacrifice his place to accommodate Jayaratne.

Veteran politicians, Dr. W. Dahanayake and Maithripala Senanayake were also dropped from the national lists.

Nobody would grudge the re-appointment of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar through the national list. Ronnie de Mel, M. H. Segu Izzadeen, S. Sathasivam, Dilan Perera, Mahinda Amaraweera and Ajantha de Zoyza were the rest chosen from the original list. While de Mel was placed on the national list, his wife, Mallika contested the Matara district. She easily won a seat and also the opportunity to obtain full pension rights after completing a five-year term. Ironically Ronnie de Mel was among the PA MPs who openly backs the formation of a national government.

We wrote a lot about our politicians, their personal staff and the way jobs have been found for defeated candidates and those dropped from national lists of the PA and the UNP. Our articles ‘El Dorado’ and ‘Dishing out the political gravy’ appearing in the last two Sundays angered some politicians.

The UNP did the same with regard to some unsuccessful candidates. Ex-CWC MP R. Yogarajan who contested the Colombo district failed in his bid to return to parliament. The CWC’s national organiser polled only 33,444 preference votes. But the UNP named him one of the 13 national list MPs. It was obvious the UNP leadership had been forced to agree with the CWC’s demands for its support which helped topple President Kumaratunga’s administration. The CWC wanted its pound of flesh.

The UNP had no option but to give in to the CWC ‘requests’.

Two unsuccessful SLMC candidates, Dr. A. L. M. Hafrath and M. S. Thowfeek were also named national list candidates. Partymen resented their appointments. But for the top leadership, there was no alternative but to satisfy the SLMC as they did the CWC. Hafrath and Thowfeek contested Kurunegala and Trincomalee districts respectively. They lost badly. Hafrath is the General Secretary of the SLMC.

It was obvious that both the CWC and the SLMC have succeeded in reaching pre-poll arrangements with the UNP leadership. Genuine UNPers suffered as the party in its successful bid to defeat President Kumaratunga’s administration, had to reach a series of agreements with constituents parties. Apart from the losers who were given parliamentary seats, most of the PA dissidents did not contest the elections. They opted to enter parliament through the national list. But at least they were on the original national list. G. L. Peiris, S. B. Dissanayake and Jayasundera Wijekoon were accommodated in the final list. The list also included K. N. Choksy, Tilak Marapana, A. R. M. A. Cader, A. H. M. Azwer, M. S. M. Salman, P. P. Radhakrishnan and M. M. Mushthapa.

Some good people were left out. Indrani Iriyagolla, wife of Gamini Iriyagolla and the daughter-in-law of the late I. M. R. A. Iriyagolla, education minister of the then Dudley Senanayake government was among them. Both the UNP and the PA did not appoint a single woman through the national list.

Ex-UNP MPs, Rohan Tissa Abeygunasekera, M. L. M. Aboosally, Dr. Ranjith Atapattu and Anura Bastian and ex-CWC MP P. P. Devaraj were left out with Prasanna Gunawardene, a son of the late Philip Gunawardene and brother of two former ministers, Indika and Dinesh. Prasanna was lucky. He was rewarded with the prestigious post of the mayor of Colombo. Obviously it was made at the expense of former Mayor Omar Kamil.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem’s brother Dr. A. R. Abdul Hafees, who failed to enter parliament despite being in the original national list was later appointed a member of Rauff’s personal staff.

The SLMC not only had the opportunity of appointing some of its members (unsuccessful candidates) through the UNP national list. It was also able to make a single appointment from its own national list as the party fielded candidates on its own as well. A. A. M. Bawa was appointed the SLMC’s only national list MP.

The JVP made three national list appointments while the TULF made one. But none were offered to candidates rejected by the people.

There was no doubt the situation would be worse following the next general elections. Ultimately there would not be any from the original national lists of the PA and the UNP. Instead the parliament will be packed with politicians rejected by the people. Whatever the proposed constitutional changes, the two major parties and minority parties have signalled that they were not ready to introduce changes which would be detrimental to their interests.

The present system has allowed those who fail at the parliamentary level to move to provincial councils or even local government bodies. So far they have not moved from parliament to local government bodies but the possibility cannot be ruled out if whichever government in power decides to issue car permits to members of the "lesser" elected councils.