Delaying provincial council elections The most irregular amendment of a bill in SL history
Posted on September 21st, 2017

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon Executive Director/CaFFE

Issuing a press release Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) stated that the provincial council elections amendment bill, which was passed in Parliament on Wednesday, is the most irregular amendment of a bill in Sri Lankan history.

The bill which was passed, violating all accepted democratic norms, transparency and rule of law under the pretext of establishing a mixed electoral system.

  1. Supreme Court has the power to decide whether the referred Bill is in keeping with the basic law of the land which is the country’s constitution. The SC deemed the said Bill was not keeping with the constitution on 19 September, however the bill was ratified with a two-thirds majority through the backdoor. In the history of the parliament, such an incident has never taken place before.
  2. Certain clauses in the 13th amendment to the constitution will be affected by the bill. Thus this is the first such time that the constitution had been changed through a Bill.
  3. The bill also a violation of parliament Procedure. The submission of 31 page amendments to change a three page amendment further shows the danger posed by this Bill. Also there is no relevance between increasing female representation in provincial councils and the amendments made.
  4. MPs only saw the amendments to the bill on 20 September. No other citizen had access to the text of the amendments. Thus this was a bill that was not considered in the Supreme Court or was discussed among professionals/stakeholders.
  5. The Elections Commission officials only saw the bill on September 20 as well. Moreover no member of the Elections Commission or the legal officers of the commission were consulted. Even the infamous 2012 bill used the services of officials from the elections department.
  6. It’s against the principals of good governance to prepare and pass a draft bill without the consultation of citizens, CSOs and pressure groups.
  7. On the other hand this bill has concentrated the mixed electoral system into one that gives complete power to party leaders. The bill allows the party leaders to appoint 50% of representatives elected from a district. Moreover this allows the party leader to select all candidates who will be elected under the first past the post system.
  8. The ability to hold by elections is one of the main features of the first past the post system. Allowing the party secretary to fill the vacancies that can arise is extremely undemocratic. This can be used to make party membership slaves of the leadership and allows a small group to control the party.
  9. Those who will benefit most will be Muslim parties and estate sector political parties. In the long run this will strengthen regional or ethnic based parties and weaken the national political parties.
  10. This bill will also ensure unstable provincial councils where no party will have a stable hold of the power. This will be showcased more in Central and Eastern Provincial Councils.
  11. It is also strange that the JVP, had joined the UNP and the SLFP to pass a bill that has not been seen by anyone.
  12. AG, Legal Draftsman’s Department, general secretary of parliament, secretary to the PM, secretary to the ministry of provincial councils and its legal officer have all contributed to passing this bill against established process.
  13. The split between FPP and PR system has been changed to 50 – 50, instead of 60- 40, to get the support of Rauff Hakeem, Mano Ganesan and Rishad Bathiudeen. This makes a severe impact on the foundation of the bill and has created a system that will greatly benefit the populations they represent.
  14. MA Sumanthiran acted as the Chief theoretician of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, instead of TNA leader.

What the future holds

The constitution is the supreme law of the land, the bill on provincial councils is secondary to it. Based on this a civil society organization is to file a case at the Supreme Court requesting it to direct the Elections Commission to call for nominations for the North Central, Eastern and Sabaragamuwa provinces.

Serious concerns

The government has established laws that will pave way to delay elections and to create a servile membership in political parties. And in a bid to get the bill passed with a 2/3 majority it has made alterations that will greatly benefit parties based on ethnicity.

The government also ignored the directives of the Supreme Court and violated democratic norms to get this bill passed. CaFFE warns that the consequences of this action will be dire and urges the government not to repeat such irregular actions.

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon

Executive Director/CaFFE

September 21, 2017

2 Responses to “Delaying provincial council elections The most irregular amendment of a bill in SL history”

  1. Vaisrawana Says:

    Thank you very much, Keerthi Tennakoon. You have hit the nail on the head. Like the rest of the controversial pieces of legislation recently passed in parliament through sheer coercion, the provincial councils election amendment bill is yet another nail (probably one of the last) in the coffin of the virtually dead democracy in Sri Lanka. I listened to your speech about the same topic in another source. There you mentioned something about the possibility of someone legally challenging the passage of this bill, as I understood it. That comment of yours gives us some hope. My opinion is that such a reaction may be possible on grounds of the irregular procedure adopted, the bill’s unconstitutionality, fraudulence involved in smuggling in excessive amendments while circumventing/ or acting in defiance of the Supreme Court rulings (a process that could constitute contempt of court).

    Earlier, in relation to a different context, I thought it was proper to make some adverse comments on you. This time, I sincerely praise you for standing up for what is right and for denouncing what is not.

  2. NAK Says:

    This is not legislating………..this is legisbending…Kuujitha style.

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