Shocking news

Madness has cynically been defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Sri Lankans have been doing likewise at successive elections since Independence. They religiously exercise their franchise and vote for self-serving politicians in the hope that they would get a better deal only to be taken for a ride after every election.Yahapalanaya or good governance, the incumbent leaders promised them, two and a half years ago, has turned out to be will-o'-the-wisp or a ghost light.

UPFA General Secretary, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera is reported to have said the number of local government councillors will double when electoral reforms take effect. We will be burdened with at least 8,400 of them, according to what he has said. The SLFP is opposed to the increase but has chosen not to raise objections lest the local government elections should be further delayed, he tells us. The formulation of electoral reforms did not happen overnight; everybody knew there was a move to increase the number of local councillors. We opposed it through these columns on several occasions. The SLFP has had all the time in the world to have the electoral reform proposals amended to retain the number of councillors at the present level. Instead of ridding the reform package of unsalutary features, the SLFP helped the UNP use it to postpone local government polls.

Three years ago in July 2014, the then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe called for radical political and electoral reforms. He stressed the need for reducing the term of parliament to four years. We endorsed his proposals editorially while recalling a popular local saying about politicians, power and their ratiocination: mole thiyanakota bale ne, bale thiyanakota mole ne—‘political power and brain power are mutually exclusive’. The yahapalana leaders have reduced the term of parliament by only one year and doubled the number of local councillors! They raked the Rajapaksa government over the coals—and rightly so—for its jumbo Cabinet and promised a smaller one. But, they have also appointed a mega Cabinet by using the unity government ruse. Supplementary estimates to the tune of billions of rupees are presented to Parliament from time to time seeking funds to buy super luxury vehicles for the yahapalana ministers.

Roguish politicians are the bane of this country as is public knowledge. What is needed urgently is action to reduce the number of so-called people’s representatives in Parliament, the Provincial Councils and the local government institutions. It defies comprehension why there should be so many ministers in this small country. There are 49 Cabinet ministers (including the President and the Prime Minister), 21 State Ministers and 24 Deputy Ministers besides about 45 ministers in provincial councils. The public will now have to pay more taxes to maintain the ever expanding colony of political leeches.

Regrettably, there has been no campaign to have a constitutional provision introduced for removing elected representatives who fail to live up to public expectations or misbehave or find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The present electoral system does not permit the introduction of a recall system. Recall referenda or representative recalls are possible only under the first-past-the-post system which permits by-elections to be confined to electorates in case MPs are recalled through petitions. Given the sheer number of misbehaving parliamentarians, provincial councillors and local government members, the need for a recall system cannot be overemphasised.

The government move to burden the public with more local government councillors must be resisted with might and main. Let the civil society members, opinion makers, political activists et al be urged to come forward and register their strong protest.



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