Cabinet to pass 20A draft on June 3: Rajitha

Published : 7:21 am  May 29, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Sandun A Jayasekera
The Cabinet at its next meeting scheduled for June 3 will approve the draft of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution based on the draft proposal presented by President Maithripala Sirisena to the Cabinet on  Wednesday,  Cabinet spokesman and Minister Rajitha Senaratne said yesterday.

Dr. Senaratne toLAte-City-DM-1-13ld the media at the weekly Cabinet news briefing that after a lengthy discussion on the draft of the 20 A, the Cabinet decided to appoint a ministerial committee to study the draft further and submit a report at the next Cabinet meeting on June 3.
Minister Senaratne said he was confident that the 20A would be approved on June 3 by the Cabinet adding that the committee would comprise representatives of the minority parties and a few ministers interested in the electoral reforms.

“The government wants to table the draft of the 20A in Parliament soon after the Bill is passed at the next Cabinet meeting and get it through the legal draftsman and Supreme Court ,” he said.

The draft proposal of the 20A, submitted by President Sirisena contains 15 points incluidng the establishment of a Delimitation Commission and the methodology proposed to create polling divisions in electoral districts, proclamation of names of such Electoral Districts and Polling Divisions, the number of Members to be elected by the several Electoral Districts and on the proportional electoral system, proportional representations based on total votes polled at district level to elect members of Parliament, election of Members of Parliament on the basis of the total number of votes polled at the General Elections by each political party or independent group of candidates, the election of members on the basis of First Past the Post (FPP) and Proportional Representation (PR).  

President Sirisena also says in his Cabinet paper that no political party has recommended the increase of parliamentarians from 225 to 255. However, the Sub-Committee noted that the people have approved an election system to accommodate a parliamentarian in a polling division and to hold elections under the FPP. It is emphasized that the number of parliamentarians was increased from 225 to 255 without considering any party political conceptualities, and focusing on the ideas shared by groups with special knowledge on electoral data and methodologies followed in elections in the past.

There is a broad consensus to consider 165 Polling Divisions inclusive of multi-member Polling Divisions as the base for demarcation. Though there were requests made by certain political parties to reduce the cutoff point from 5% to 1.5% and 1% when national list representation is calculated, the Sub-Committee did not agree with this proposal. We may discuss this and reach a consensus. The proposal made on ‘two ballot paper system voting’ was discussed at length where some committee members held that it would lead to preferential voting on caste, religions, ethnic bases. Further, if a considerable percentage of electors vote for two different political parties it may complicate the election process.  

The Delimitation Commission when demarcating Polling divisions should consider social plurality existing in the country. Several minority political parties made three main demands in demarcating polling divisions on this ground. They are as follows: They expected that people with special concerns (e.g.: estate communities, Tamil communities in city areas, Muslim communities, women etc.) should be provided representation in a reasonable manner. It is necessary to pay special attention to the reduction of representation in the Parliament from the Northern Province due to displacement in the Northern Province. Since the total number of parliamentarians will increase from 225 to 255 the representatives, parties from Jaffna District requested that at least a minimum number of seats should be allocated. The attention of the Delimitation Commission is expected to this.  

The guidelines to the Delimitation Commission should include a recommendation to consider pluralism in society so as to ensure the minority groups are adequately represented, based on the number of votes polled by them. Further, a proposal was made to make arrangements to permit participation of observers from such groups when the Delimitation Commission meets.

To ensure reasonable representations of the people, the Delimitation Commission should demarcate multi-member constituencies. The polling divisions should not cross district boarders. To the extent possible, the number of seats in Parliament should reflect the ethnic composition of the population. The role of candidates who are over and above the stipulated number of Polling Divisions at an election was queried by the JVP at the last meeting and a solution could not be found after deliberation.

“I strongly agree with the proposal for women’s representation and hope that other political parties also will agree with me. It is proposed to include 5% – 10% women candidates in the nominations to represent Polling Divisions. The proposal to include 1/3rd women candidates in the additional district list and the national list also may be considered. Legal provisions also should be made to pay more attention to consider women candidates when members are appointed from the national list after an election,” President Sirisena has said.