Electoral reforms another SLFP ruse alleges Harin

...urges Ranil not to cooperate with govt.


By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP MP Harin Fernando yesterday said that the Opposition shouldn’t endorse amendments to the existing parliamentary and presidential election laws unless President Mahinda Rajapaksa was ready to give up the executive presidency.

The abolition of the executive presidency should be an integral part of the electoral reforms, the MP said, adding that the Opposition shouldn’t be deceived by SLFP Ministers’ sweet talk. The Badulla District MP was responding to a four-member ministerial panel comprising Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dallas Alahapperuma and Susil Premjayanth calling for further electoral reforms in the wake of  the Opposition agreeing with amendments to Local Government Elections Law.

In a brief interview with The Island, the Badulla District MP alleged that the ruling SLFP-led coalition was strengthening itself under the guise of introducing electoral reforms. An irate MP urged the UNP leadership to be watchful of SLFP moves or face the consequences.

Parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed amendments to the Local Government Elections law. MP Fernando said that it would be a mistake on their part to believe the primary objective of LG Election Law amendment was to do away with the preferential voting system, which had been blamed for intra-party disputes and violence.

The new system will be a cross between the Westminster (First-past-the-Post) and the Proportional Representation (PR) system to elect members to local authorities in the future.

Asked whether he would raise the issue with the party leadership, Fernando said that the parliamentary group should ascertain why the UPFA was so keen to introduce electoral reforms. The mindset of the Sri Lankan electorate was such that the party which held the executive presidency had an advantage over others at Provincial Council and Local Government polls, he said.

Instead of cooperating with the government, the Opposition political parties should sink their differences and agree on a common strategy. The MP regretted that the Opposition had so far failed to challenge the UPFA in spite of people struggling to make ends meet. "The economy is in serious difficulty due to waste, corruption and irregularities. Sri Lanka’s debt is rapidly growing, while those in power make profits at the expense of people.

The amendments will see the country revert to the Ward System under which 70 per cent of the councillors will be directly elected to Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas, while the remaining 30 per cent will be elected under the PR system.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, welcoming the amendments in Parliament on Wednesday said the new system should be considered a pilot project and after using it for the local government elections the same could be applied for other electoral systems. He said the Opposition would support the amendments and hoped that it would be successful.

MP Fernando said that he would urge the UNP Working Committee to review the party’s position as regards the proposed electoral reforms. It would be better if the joint Opposition examined the issue before responding to UPFA moves to amend parliamentary and presidential election laws.

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