A two thirds majority of the Parliamentarians elected to the Sri Lankan Parliament through the people’s vote are honoured for passing the Amendment of the Provincial Council Act endorsing that future Provincial Councils Election should be conducted under a mixed system. We accept that it is a positive thing to hold the upcoming Provincial Councils Election under the electoral and proportional representation system. Furthermore, we respectfully acknowledge the duty and the right of the Parliament and the honourable members of the Parliament to produce legislation.
However, we expect that this process should take place in such a way that does not damage and undermine the people’s trust and respect to the basic values of democracy and it should demonstrate the true representation of the people and the Parliament.
The Act passed in Parliament contains provisions for the increase of women’s representation through the legislation, but the delay in holding elections due to the above-mentioned provision is a failure of a Government that is allegedly governed by good governance. This is not what is expected by the public by any means.
The PAFFREL organization and many other parties were opposed to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Supreme Court had to refer to the opinion of the Government on the basis that it was not only due to elections being postponed but most importantly done without consulting the people (at a referendum). As a result, taking these points into consideration, the Supreme Court had also ruled that it needs a two thirds Parliamentary approval and a referendum.
Whatever the contents of the Act passed recently on 20, 2017 September the final, outcome is that the Provincial Councils elections are postponed indefinitely. Although it is not directly related to the 20th Amendment, it is similar to a case of this nature. Hence, the Government has to pay attention to whether it is honouring the Supreme Court’s ruling in an honest manner or not. Further, to which extent the Government honours the Supreme Court’s ruling is another question. Has the Government given serious thought to this subject?
Also, the Bill was passed as an urgent Amendment to the Bill that was submitted with the aim of increasing the women’s representation. However, this is a serious amendment to the electoral system of the country where there is an absolutely different picture of the electoral system of the country and also where there is no direct connection with the purpose of the basic Act. Whether it is good or bad, the fact is that no one could challenge it by submitting it at the committee stage. In the name of democracy, it was passed in Parliament with a two thirds majority vote. This gave a nice picture about the country to the world about the public confidence, representative democracy and the political culture in Sri Lanka. It shows once again that in the future, that a party with the majority in the Parliament will be able to pass anything in the name of democracy. We still have not learnt a lesson from the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
Therefore, we request his excellency the President, the honourable Prime Minister and the Government to table the Amendment of the Parliamentary Elections Act as mentioned in the election manifesto and that it should be amended before the end of the Parliamentary term. Otherwise, the Parliamentary election will also be at risk. Similarly we would like to request from the Government to bring the relevant amendments to the Municipal Council, Urban Council and Local Council Ordinance and hold the elections soon.
We respect the laws and regulations of the legislature, and we believe that the legislature will also defend the dignity and confidence of the people by acknowledging the right of the citizens to examine and challenge them whenever they wish (meanwhile, former Chief Justice, President’s Counsel Sarath Nanda Silva has done precisely this by filing a fundamental rights petition before the Supreme Court, questioning the legality of the very methodology adopted by the Government in passing the Provincial Councils Election Amendment Bill. The process has also come under fire from the Opposition, in particular the Joint Opposition and elsewhere, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, which constitutes the private and unofficial bar). Finally, we would like to point out that the sovereignty of the people is a reality in such an environment. It should uphold the supremacy of the ordinary man at any given instance.
BY Rohana Hettiarachchie
(Executive Director of the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections/PAFFREL)