Sri Lanka’s Parliament: 29 Member National List should not be given Ministerial Portfolios
Posted on May 27th, 2022

Shenali D Waduge

The national list comprises 29 people nominated by political parties. They are not nominees of the People but the political party they are aligned to or have been named by. That they are included in a particular party automatically displays a tilt of bias towards that party.  The rationale behind the insertion of 29 member national list was to bring people who had knowledge & skills into Parliament without them having to contest elections. Bringing knowledge & skills into Parliament does not mean they should be given Ministerial portfolios. This takes away the entire meaning of holding elections. However, the electoral system needs to be revisited to place a list of criteria that allows knowledgeable politicians to contest, get elected and enter Parliament so they do not become secondary to the professionals nominated into Parliament. The bonus comes in the ability of the 29 member national list to provide professional inputs in terms of policy planning, implementation strategy, evaluation & auditing as an icing to the services expected of the 196 elected by the People.

The National List SHOULD

  • Should comprise only professionals & not people nominated by political parties. 29 Names should be nominated by Industry chambers / State Universities & local NGOs that are not funded from foreign sources (rationale behind this is that foreign funded NGOs will have mixed loyalties)
  • 29 National List nominees will function on an advisory role but will be given a remuneration / an official vehicle/driver only. There will be no security /no official residence / no other perks & privileges.

The National List SHOULD NOT ALLOW

  • Politicians to enter
  • Rejected politicians to enter – it is a violation of the voters franchise.
  • 29 National List nominees should not be given title of Minister or enjoy any perks & privileges paid by the taxpayer.
  • To become a Prime Minister (because the next step is President)
  • National List nominee should not hold Ministerial position (rationale behind this is that National List nominees are not people’s representatives as first preference must be given to people’s representatives)

Why should 29 National List nominees not be made Ministers

  • This will prone them to corruption or to be corrupted
  • They do not have the voters franchise
  • The National List was created to enable people with knowledge & skills to enter Parliament without contesting. Their role therefore, has to differ from politicians who have to move with the people and based on this popularity & trust, the people vote the politicians. We have to separate the elected politicians and the nominated National List members.
  • The National List nominees should function as ADVISORS only but their mandate should be clearly defined so that their opinions are not discarded by either President or Parliament.
  • 29 National List cannot demand to be made Ministers because most have no political experience or service to demand positions that as per Parliamentary system is allocated to elected nominees.

REMOVE Section 99A of 14th Amendment

The National List was introduced via the 14th amendment. However a case filed by Nagahananda Kodituwakku claims that the Section 99A passed on 4 May 1988 was not what the Speaker E L Senanayake certified on 24th May 1988 and what was signed allowed political parties to ignore lists given by them & return rejected MPs to Parliament which was not what had been deliberated for 5 years from 8 July 1983.

Examples of this abuse is taking place to such an extent that a 5 time PM, who was rejected by his party, overruled the national list given by his own party to return to Parliament from the national list. Similarly, JVP too violated the spirit of the national list by bringing back rejected Sunil Handunetti after removing Auditor General Sarachchandra Mayadunne who was number of 1 on the JVP list. ITAK too fielded a rejected candidate through the National List. Therefore, if the SC has not made a determination on the case filed by Nagahananda, a future constitution or constitutional amendment must forbid rejected politicians from re-entering through the national list.

What good does it serve to boast about parliamentary democracy, voter franchise and sovereignty is inalienable & with the people, if 29 people that the people do not vote for, enter Parliament, are made Cabinet Ministers or worst case scenario, a bunch of rejected politicians also enter and become Ministers including the present situation of even becoming the country’s Prime Minister. To add to injury, this caretake prime minister rejected by his party is drafting a constitutional amendment to transfer the executive President’s powers to himself.

If the Judiciary allows such to take place, the judiciary would be undermining the core feature of the constitution – that being the sovereignty with the people and the people delegating their powers temporarily to the government & the President to act as custodians of the State on behalf of the People. Parliament delegates powers to the Judiciary therefore, the Judiciary is also bound by the Public Trust doctrine.

With the people’s eyes on the President & Parliament regarding corruptions, the Judiciary too is under the radar and should also realize they are being watched as well. The people in particular do not expect the Judiciary to be politicized and the Judiciary invariably requires to be biased – but it has to be biased towards protecting the Sovereignty of the People, the Sovereignty of the Nation & the Territorial Integrity of Sri Lanka. The judiciary cannot be unbiased because its powers are delegated to protect Sri Lanka & its People, not to compromise Sri Lanka or its People.

Shenali D Waduge

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