Thursday, November 1, 2012

Youth and Female representation in local politics – a crying need in Sri Lanka

In the previous blog entry, I commented on Sajith Premadasa’s comments extensively carried out in yesterday’s papers, that the newly passed Local Government Elections Amendment Act has reduced representation of women and youth, that had been set up in the past. I also elaborated that the MP’s statement was clearly misleading, as Sri Lanka has one of the lowest representation rates of both these categories in local government anywhere in the world, except for some Muslim countries. The new Act has not mandated any figure, with just a recommendation of 25%, and further Sajith said he had asked for 25% youth and 25% female, which had been rejected. The constant criticism is that youth and women have no clue in politics, but that is a gross generalization. Only those who are capable can be selected, as they are more able than some of the long serving male politicians, and can increase the representation we are crying out for.

Mandating creates unqualified candidates, as was proved. Often, women were just accosted on the street, asked to give their ID information and then included in the candidate list so that the minimum could be met, hardly befitting a PR system!

There is a usual fear amongst politicians that young people will be able to take votes from their traditional voter base, as they are able to go house to house and be seen to be active, whilst the older pol is ensconced in an office doing his work, with less time on his hands to go house to house. This has meant that there is an effort by the older pols, to prevent active, and capable young people from rising.

It is important therefore that the Party makes a concerted effort in publicizing the party policy on youth, and how it intends to increase the participation of youth, women and minorities through their party, primarily by giving capable people the nomination as a first step.

Actually, a more important step is required first, namely of identifying future leaders in this sector and giving them the necessary training to plan a campaign for the next election. Within the organizational structure of the UNP it then falls to the Lak Vanitha Peramuna to identify local women and empower them and train them for future office, and in a similar vein, the Jathika Yovun Peramuna to do the same for youth. Through this training certain commitments can be given, if a criteria test can be cleared, so there is no ambiguity amongst them on what it is that is required, prior to them getting nomination to a local ward to contest on the party’s behalf. It is therefore the responsibility of the political party to take steps to increase representation rather than refer to the Act to criticize the lack of such!!

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