It was reported in today’s media that Sajith Premadasa has criticized the new Local Government Act, as taking away the benefits given in the PR system to women and youth. His mastery of the facts is either appalling or his criticism grossly misplaced. He should have concentrated his speech on some other more reliable information that I am sure in this day and age can be directed against the Government and would resonate with the people.
Let me point out. There was a provision which required that 40% of the candidates seeking election had to be women and/or youth. If you read the speech he says the representation has come down from 40% to nil. So if none of the 40% received sufficient preferences NONE would be elected and there would be NO representation of women in that elected body. So he is most incorrect in his statement. The facts speak for themselves today in local govt. bodies.
Whilst I agree there is NO specific numbers reserved for women, youth and minorities, it is up to the party to nominate a woman or young person who HAS the ability to win an election as it is against another party, and not against people of your own party which the PR system has encouraged, albeit as a by-product. A person who falls into this category and who is popular in his locality CAN win on the new first past the post system, as long as the Party nominates him or her.
The same holds true for women. In the new proposed system, I believe the electoral organizer has the ability to put a name forward of youth, women and minority under the percentage allocated for PR of 30% now (expected to be increased to 40%) The higher up the list this person is they have a greater likelihood of being elected, not by vote like in the preference system, but by the seats allocated to a party under the hybrid system.
I expect, contrary to Sajith’s thinking to see more women, youth and minorities in local bodies, though they may be members who are appointed and not necessarily elected, if their names are NOT put forward to the wards or location they wish to seek election from. I wish to further remind the reader, that this Act received the blessings of the UNP in Parliament, as it was a lesser of two evils, and this was the only chance of the Act being passed, after the committee appointed by PM Ranil Wickremasinghe, with Dinesh Gunewardene then in opposition appointed to the head the committee in 2002. (By the way these days the Govt. never appoints a member of the Opposition to head a committee, an indication to the depths at which our system of checks and balances operate today. EVEN COPE HAD AN OPPOSITION HEAD IN THOSE DAYS. Today is a Govt. yes man, sorry DEW.
It is up to society to raise patriots who believe through politics that they can improve society. Then more women, youth, and minorities will seek election for the right reason, and people with common sense will vote for them, as more reliable, less prone to corruption or with a new vision, not tainted by years of political infighting. It is simply up to the political parties to bring more candidates that fall into these categories, by encouraging, training and empowering people in these categories to seek election.
The real failure in the Act is that parties with less than 5% representation are annihilated with no chance of representation. This will likely wipe out the JVP from local government politics. However that is all well and good for the UNP and hence not mentioned. SP picking on this earlier point is really not a crucial issue, as it is difficult to force youth and women into seeking election in a first past the post selection, only to encourage promising women and youth in relevant constituencies. Maybe if he criticizes the least he should have done was to provide a more equitable solution on balance. Isn't that fair?