More local govt. members under new election law


By Franklin R. Satyapalan.

The part return to the old first-past-the-post system at local government elections following demarcation of local authority wards by the National Delimitation Committee will raise the present 4,486 elected local government members to 8,000 and the salary and benefits bill alone for these additional elected representatives will cost the government Rs.20 million a month, sources at the Provincial Council and Local Government Ministry said.

It has also been agreed that party candidates running for election for local bodies deposit Rs.500 and independent candidates Rs.2,500 against the previous recommendation that party candidates should deposit Rs.2,500 and independent candidates Rs.20,000.

Neither Minister A.L.M. Athaullah,his deputy,Indika Bandaranayake, nor Ministry Secretary Kithsiri Ranawaka were available for comment on this matter yesterday.Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, the Chief Government Whip in Parliament, pointed out that the new election procedure for local government bodies providing for 70% of the members to be elected to wards while the balance 30% will be elected on proportional representation (PR) had been unanimously approved by Parliament and the next step will be the appointment of a National Delimitation Commission.

Political parties that have had to face internecine battles for preference votes at elections have recommended the new system of election applicable to future local government elections.

UNP MP R. Yogarajan said that the government had accepted several suggestions made by his party for inclusion in the Local Government Election Bill that was unanimously passed by Parliament.

This accounted for the unanimous adoption of this legislation, Yogarajan said, adding that Minister Athaullah has also agreed to move amendments incorporating some of the suggestions made by the UNP after the National Delimitation Commission had completed its work and made its recommendations.

Political parties have had problems with the 40% youth component requirement on their nomination lists adopted by President R. Premadasa following a recommendation made by the Presidential Commission on Youth.

Yogarajan said that a Parliamentary Select Committee had recommended that this 40% youth percentage be reduced to 25% and that this 25% could comprise both youth and women. However, the UNP’s suggestion that a 50% youth and women quota on nomination list had been rejected by the government.

The 40% youth requirement had created difficulties for political parties some of whom had their lists rejected for not conforming, political sources pointed out.

The UNP’s proposal that the 5-member National Delimitation Commission, previously to be named by the subject minister with the concurrence of the President, should comprise of non-political appointees from all communities has been accepted by the government.

It has been agreed that those who will serve on this commission should appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee for endorsement before appointment has been accepted.

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