Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two hugely important Bills were passed in Parliament a little while ago (October 10th 2012) and there is no news about it being presented!!! – Local Authorities Special Provisions Bill and the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill

Parliament in Sri Lanka seems to pass extremely important bills, and the populace appear clueless of their existence thanks to the Media that did not report it in the papers today. Who is to blame?  In this case it was in the order paper of Parliament but the media either chose not to pick on it, or the reporters did not believe it was newsworthy enough to report on. However the consequences of its passing affect every citizen in the country. Now the Local Authorities have the power to elect 70% of the officials on a ward based system on a first past the post basis, and up to a maximum of 30% by the use of the PR method.

It is not as simple as it sounds as there are provisions that affect how the 30% are chosen not as the loser with the highest number of votes at that particular authority and in that order, but by the General Secretary of the party having complete autonomy as to who he chooses to put on the list and the order of preference he chooses.

This has diabolical consequences at the local level, where the Electoral Organizer does not necessarily have any power to appoint local people of his choice in this and may have to submit to higher authority in the party to a person or persons not of his choosing. These people may even oppose him, and so he will be in an unenviable situation where he will have councilors in his local area with whom he may not see eye to eye and who have no following at all in the local area or any base in terms of vote. They are not people (similar to National List MPs) who have ANY political support but are merely appointees due to some favor they have provided to whoever has the power to submit their names to this list.

I have not looked into all the provisions of the Bill (now ACT) but this is just one glaring anomaly that the presenters of the bill wish to pass unnoticed and as this requires a two thirds majority to pass an Amendment to an Act, it is unlikely that it will be changed for a long time, even if we find obvious inconsistencies in it and faults. This kind of surreptitious passing of laws is not helpful in this democracy.

People must have the right to debate the proposed bills and air their grievances and let the power know their suggestions. However in our democracy it appears that people’s choice is only for the General Election, and after that they elected representatives DO NOT need to consult the populace in their decisions.

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