Electoral reforms not necessary to keep dregs out of politics-D’baram


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Plantation Infrastructure Development Minister Palani Digambaram yesterday said that proposed electoral reforms wouldn’t prevent those who had been engaged in various nefarious activities from re-entering or entering parliament for the first time.

MP Digambaram switched his allegiance to the UNP-led Opposition camp on Dec 10, last year.

The government comprising the UNP and a section of the SLFP-led UPFA is in the process of discussing electoral reforms. The UPFA is pushing for the passage of the 20 Amendment encompassing far reaching electoral reforms ahead of the next parliamentary poll.

The opposition as well as the UNP had been clamouring against the existing preferential voting system as it caused intra-party rivalries detrimental to the major parties. It also favoured those with bags of money as one had to campaign in an entire district instead of a particular electorate. Therefore candidates backed by big money have an unfair advantage.

Leader of the National Union of Workers (NUW) Digambaram alleged that those pushing for electoral reforms had been propagating a blatant lie that electoral reforms were required to prevent heroin dealers and other criminals from entering parliament.

Minister Digambaram was addressing the media at the Information Department.

Asked whether the NUW supported proposed 20 Amendment to the Constitution, Minister Digambaram emphasized that the existing system was beneficial to the minorities. The proposed electoral reforms would further deprive the minorities of reasonable representation in parliament, Minister Digambaram said, adding that the smaller political parties were having talks with both major political parties regarding the developments.

Minister Digambaram said instead of resorting to electoral reforms, major political parties should ensure nominations were given only to respectable persons. Nuwara Eliya District MP said that it would be the responsibility of leaders of major political parties. The minister said that as the leader of the NUW, it would be his responsibility to thwart unscrupulous elements from using his party. "Political party leaders should know what to do. The problem is their failure to act", he said.

In case the government was going ahead with electoral reforms, the NUW would push for an increase in the number of members from the plantation areas, Minister Digambaram said. Those in the government and the Opposition couldn’t ignore the gradual expansion population wise of Nuwara Eliya, Hanguranketha and Walapone electorates, MP Digambaram said, underscoring the urgent need to give additional representation to them.

When The Island pointed out that he had switched his allegiance to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa after having contested the last parliamentary election in April 2010 on the UNP ticket, Minister Digambaram admitted that he wouldn’t approve of crossovers. "I was wrong," Minister Digambaram said, adding that the then Minister Arumugam Thondaman’s actions compelled them to join the former government. The minister said that his move was meant to secure protection in the face of violent acts committed by the then Minister. "But still I am targeted. Today, Thondaman cannot operate freely because we are in power."

Minister Digambaram alleged that the Opposition sabotaged bid to discourage members from switching allegiance by way of constitutional provision in the 19 Amendment to the Constitution.

The police openly sided with the CWC leader regardless of the consequences, Minister Digambaram claimed.

Asked whether the NUW would contest the forthcoming parliamentary election on the UNP ticket, Minister Digambaram said that parliament was yet to be dissolved. "We’ll announce our decision soon after the dissolution of parliament", he said.

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