Proportional Representation System that killed Democracy in Sri Lanka
Posted on April 4th, 2010

Dr Sudath Gunasekara. President, Mahanuwara Senior Citizens Movement. 4.4.2010

Proportional Representation system that has messed up and ruined the entire election system was introduced to Sri Lanka by the 1978 Constitution. Prior to that, representatives to the Parliament were elected on a simple electoral basis where one voter had one vote. Under that system elections were held by electorates and voters cast their vote to the candidate of the party of their choice. The candidate who got the highest number of votes was declared elected and he/she represented the people of that electorate directly in Parliament. He was also directly responsible to his electorate. Accordingly every electorate had a representative in Parliament unlike the present Parliament elected on the PR system where you get a large number of electorates without MPP. After the 2004 elections Kandy alone had eight such electorates. The people also had a representative to air out their grievances under that system. Those were some of the salient principles of representative Democracy.

Proportional Representation system turned this system upside down and killed the foundation and the spirit of representative democracy in this country.  Meanwhile politicians also were compelled to run about the whole district like rabid dogs to collect preferences killing each other for political power.

The new system entitled each voter 4 votes. The first one called the vote had to be cast to the party of his choice. The other three which were called preferences, they could give to three candidates of the same party if it is a Parliamentary election. Even under this system elections were conducted on the basis of former electorates. But the election of representatives to Parliament was done on a district basis. The total number of preferences polled from the whole district was the basis of election. Accordingly they came to be known as District MPP. So the designation of MPP as Senkadagala or Udadumbara as hitherto practiced ceased to exist there after. However the old seats were retained for organizing the electorate politically by the parties and the person assigned for that purpose was called the Organizer. He was appointed at the discretion of the party leader. The electors of a given electorate had no choice but to vote the candidate imposed from above. In this manner the democratic rights of the electors to select, elect and reject a person of their choice were forcibly taken over by the party and the party leadership. Representative democracy also died a natural death along with this trend and came to an end.

Under the new system a candidate had to run all over the district to collect preference where as earlier he had only to canvas within his electorate. For example a candidate contesting election in the Kandy District today has to run from Sripada to Matale and Kadugannawa to Mahiyangana.

The latest addition to this trend is introducing candidates even from outside the district. Under this move a man from Colombo could be nominated to contest even Jaffna or Batticalloa or a person from Hambantota to contest Gampaha or Kandy.  You need only the consent of the Party leader for that. You don’t have to have a minimum residential qualification as in countries like USA where a minimum of eight years for the Congress and ten for the Senate are compulsory. Accordingly the voters of an electorate do not have even the right to select their candidate. The party system and the leader has thus annulled and made representative democracy and made it a big mockery. The whole country has thus become a pray to the dictatorship of the party leader and the party. One should not be surprised even if they import people from abroad to contest elections in this country in future.

The new system also has brought about the following ill effects.

Absence of a MP for most of the electorates, disappearance of the concept of people’s representative from politics, distanced the representative from the voter, end of the direct representative system, emergence of a set of MPP who are not accountable to the people and subservient to the party leader, seats with a large number of votes becoming critical in electing the district MPP and seats with lesser number of vote loosing the face alue of their vote and the right to send their representative to Parliament and getting eclipsed in the process, minorities getting polarized around minority politicians, emergence of conflict for preferences not only between different parties but also among candidates of the same party, increase of cost of elections both for the government and the candidates, becoming election a cumbersome, confused, unpleasant, complicated and tiresome, increase in waste and malpractices, a time wasting process for the Department of election as well as the candidates, pollution of the environment due to posters banners etc, emergence of blank electorates without MPP and finally turning the whole election process in to a dog fight that ends up even in killing each other. In fact as JR said today the electoral map in Sri Lanka is permanently wrapped up and put inside the waste paper basket.

The funniest thing is the latest version of democracy where the losers win and the winners lose and losers rule the winners having gone to Parliament, and even getting top portfolios. This also has resulted in killing representative democracy and its values and principles. Findings of a study of the 2004 general election in the Kandy district I did in 2007 had clearly established this situation. (See for details The Island 8th March 2007and Lankaweb).

In short elections today have got reduced to a battle ground and a savage stage of killing each other for power and wealth sans any morals or ethics. The MPP have no time to devote for public affairs as all of them are busy with ways and means of reimbursing the vast amounts of money spent on elections.  In this way the American dictum of “Democracy a form of government where a pack of crafty jackals rule a herd of donkeys for ever” is best demonstrate here than even in America.

The politicians only serve themselves and their families after getting elected even though they pretend to be servants of the public at elections. What is clear from this is people with their vote catapult a selected few undesirables to privileged positions once in five or six years and watch how they enjoy life thereafter. When you look at the power, privileges and economic benefits politicians enjoy, politics has come to stay as the best and the most lucrative job; one can aspire to get without any educational or social qualification. The only benefit the supporters get in return is breaking their limbs and watching in disgust the way how these politicians enjoy life in five star hotels and exclusive clubs, with their newly acquired ladies and gentlemen from Colombo.

In spite of this unfortunate and disgusting situation why people strive themselves day and night lighting crackers, climbing trees and lamp posts, pasting posters, painting roads and rocks all over, shouting until their thoughts become coarse, killing others and some time themselves dying. If this trend continues for another two or three years unchanged definitely the whole society might polarize and revolt against this injustice and oppression. Only then our politicians will understand that revolutions are not confined to Cuba, China, Russia and France.

I think it is high time to change this sad situation without waiting for such a massive blood bath. That could be done only by the intelligent voters like you. Because the politicians either in the right, left, centre, liberal or ultra-left will never do it, as it goes against heir own interests.

Their attitude towards service to the people is clearly demonstrated when you look at how they have together passed their pension law as enactment No 1 in 1977 and got the same thing legalized for their wives and private staff thereafter, placed themselves in the salary scale of supreme Court Judges, obtaining Rs 65 to 350, 000 worth duty free vehicle permits and making a mint of money by selling them, even though they cannot be transferred for five years and enjoying other enormous benefits while the people are starving and suffering and dying. Remember their pension act was the no 1 Act passed in the 1977 Parliament. What more evidence is required to prove their priorities?

You can change this by using the so-called sovereignty you are supposed to have under the Constitution although you have that power only for few seconds during the Election Day until you mark the cross and put your vote in to the ballet box. If you do not make the correct decision you will be cutting your own neck with your own hands. There is no point in crying Kanavo kanavo after you yourself put the serpent under your surrong. If you do the correct thing the day you die you could do so peacefully thinking that you have done your duty by your country and the future generation, yet to be born.

You may not be able to fulfill all this on the 8th of April as it is also held on the same corrupt system. But certainly you can do one thing. That is you can select at least few men and women whom you think are above board and who would consider public good than their own or at least consider 10 % public good as against 90% of their own.

I think the following few guidelines might help you to make your choice on the 8th.

If he is a standing member,

1 See what he has done to the electorate during the past six years as an MP. How many schools, bridges, miles of roads, dispensaries etc he has got for the electorate.

2 See how many times he has visited the electorate during this six year period (visits to attend his own things, functions, and to woo for your vote etc should not be taken in to account)

3 See whether he has behaved well as your MP for the past six years.

4 See how much he has earned during the period, how many houses he has built etc

5 See whether there are allegations against him regarding his character, use of public property and abuse of authority etc

6 See whether he has considered public good above personal considerations

7 How much has he wasted on the manapa baluporaya

8 See whether he has the brain, character, education and the commitment to serve the people

9 Whether he has changed his party for personal gain like getting a portfolio

10 How many duty free permits he has taken and how many have been sold.

11Has he revenged his political opponents after the elections

12 whether he has taken the salary and the other benefits for the months of January,  February and March for sitting in Parliament for two hours on Jan. 6th to vote for the emergency

13 What is the new contribution he has made to the political field of this country?

14 Has he ever risen against injustice, corruption and nepotism?

15 Finally ask him whether he is prepared to work without a salary and benefits for at least one year, if he is elected.

One Response to “Proportional Representation System that killed Democracy in Sri Lanka”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    This is only a repeat of what I had stated before in this forum.

    The Propotional Representation System was originated by Adolf Hitler, and is well laid out and explained in the Book, “” THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH “”. It was a crafty system adopted by Hitler to beat all his opponents. That book has over thousand pages.

    Every one thought that the Propotional Representation System was originated by JR. No it is not so. It was a strategy adopted by Hitler, and originated by none other than Hitler.

    Dr. Sudath Gunasekere has elucidated the PR system very well.

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