Importance of the National List | Daily News


Importance of the National List

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance that no losing parliamentary candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) would be subsequently accommodated on the National List at the upcoming General Elections, no doubt, would be welcomed by all right thinking citizens of this country.

The Premier gave this assurance to veteran elections monitor and democracy activist Rohana Hettiarachchi who represented People’s Alliance for Fair & Free Elections (PAFFREL) and the March12 Movement, at Temple Trees last Friday. Hettiarachchi, now internationally known for his elections monitoring expertise, had explained that the National List was meant to accommodate persons with scholarly attainments and professional standing and to ensure voices not electorally represented in Parliament are heard.

Since the inception of the Proportional Representation system under the second republican Constitution of 1978, both major political parties have routinely included defeated parliamentary candidates in their National Lists. This is a mockery of the people’s franchise and a distortion of representative democracy. Long standing party loyalties, family links and other considerations such financial and muscle come into the equation when defeated candidates are taken for National List slots.

Our hope is that party leaderships will heed the voters’ decision to reject a particular candidate as their parliamentary representative. Such political rejects should not then be smuggled into Parliament through the National List. The constitutionally expected prerequisites for National List inclusion should be respected and given the utmost priority when parties decide on their National Lists. We say this because the National List has been abused time and again by even by the candidates themselves. Some of them have switched loyalties to the opposing camps, dealing a double whammy to the voters.

There have been instances when misfits appointed as National List MPs from among the defeated candidates have been responsible for disturbances and mayhem inside Parliament.

It was in his maiden address to Parliament that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa bemoaned the decline in Parliamentary standards and the conduct of present day MPs. The President, himself a refreshingly new entrant in politics, reminded the House of the early post-colonial decades when the country’s Legislature was the epitome of dignity and decorum and, quality in debate.

That was the time when it was educated people and intellectuals, who volunteered to serve the people in the legislature from the local to the national level. Many of them finally retired from politics impoverished because they worked for their electorates rather than for themselves and their own kith and kin.

The same sentiments were echoed by former President Maithripala Sirisena who invited more individuals with education and good social standing to enter Parliament to raise its quality and make their contribution for the benefit of the Motherland. What better way than reserve the National Lust slots to appoint such individuals.

In this backdrop, certain members of the Viyathmaga (Path of Intellectuals), a group of professionals and intellectuals who formed the social mobilisation plank in the electoral victory of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have openly expressed their willingness to offer themselves as candidates at the upcoming Parliamentary poll. This could be an instance where the National List can come in handy – to enable such capable professionals offer their services to the nation.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already stated that no member of the Sangha would be welcomed by the SLPP to serve in Parliament. By doing so the President, no doubt, hopes that this would protect the Sasana from being too influenced by the vagaries of secular politics and currently attendant corruption.

Hopefully, other major parties will follow suit and save the National List for the deserving persons who could make a contribution towards good governance and show the way by example. Most importantly, the List should be reserved to provided representation for those sections of the citizenry who do not get representation through elections - such as very small social minorities as well as cohorts of highly qualified and accomplished professionals and intellectuals.

Leaders of all major political parties, therefore, should take the lead by cleaning the Augean Stables. They could make a start at the next elections by not giving nominations to those whose past records do not stand up to scrutiny. MPs with pending court cases against them, too, should not be treated with favour.

In the last general election, once again, politicians who were routed at the elections were given preference in the National List. Even the JVP, which points out even minor indiscretions of other parties, was guilty of this practice in 2015. At least, henceforth, the National List ought to be used wisely to enable men and women of learning to enter Parliament.

This, indeed, is the ideal scenario for which the citizens yearn in reforming the national legislature.

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