27th February 2000
Editorial/Opinion| Business| Sports|
Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine
Point of view
By I.H.M SallyMuch has been said about the Executive President and the abolition of that position. As an alternative, many politicians state the Westminster system which prevailed since independence should be restored. They fail to understand that the Westminster system which existed from 1947 to 1978, a period of 31 years has made the country worse than it was before the grant of independence.
Under the Westminster system, the party system held sway. It was the head of the party that commanded the confidence of the majority who was called upon by the Governor General to form the Government. He was appointed by the Governor General as Prime Minister. The Prime Minister thereafter appointed ministers and deputy ministers.
After the Republican Constitution of 1972, the Head of State who was the Governor General was replaced by the President.
The President or the Governor General between 1947 to 1978 had to work on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers.
In 1978 with the introduction of the new Constitution replacing the 1972 Constitution, the post of Governor General or the President was replaced by the appointment of an Executive President elected by a Referendum of the people. This vested unlimited powers in the President and he was not answerable to Parliament or to Court during his tenure of office. However, unlike the Governor General or President, the Executive President belongs to a party and has to take part in the subsequent election of the Executive President and in the General Election of Members of Parliament, which in my opinion is unbecoming and demeaning to a holder of that office.
It was thought that an opposition to the government was a sine qua non for the maintenance of democracy which in my opinion has proved to be a sham. According to the Westminster system the members of the government have to vote according to a decision arrived at by the governing party though certain members may not be in agreement with the decision. So they vote against their conscience. The same applies to the members of the opposition. Therefore how can one say there is democracy in Sri Lanka.
Although there was a strong opposition comprising the then Leftist members like Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Pieter Keuneman, Philip Gunawardena, Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe, Dr. W. Dahanayake and others, those members except for Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe and Dr. W. Dahanayake were theoretical critics but not practical.
Dr. N.M. Perera who opposed the increase in the price of rice by five cents a measure in early 1952, organised a hartal, forcing the resignation of Dudley Senanayake as Prime Minister. he was succeeded by Sir John Kotelawala.
When Dr. Perera became Minister of Finance in 1972 in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government, he increased the price of a loaf of bread from -/35 cts to Rs. 1/05 overnight and increased the price of several food and utility items by means of Gazette notifications. He could not account for the Giridara Mills which was raised as an issue in Parliament. He said that was meant for his old age. Dr. Perera, an advocate of Trade Union actions and strikes dismissed the strikers from the Bank when he was the Minister of Finance.
Dr. Colvin R. de Silva in 1956 advocated parity and said "One language two nations and two languages one nation". In 1972 when he was a minister under the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government and in charge of The Constitution Assembly to enact the 1972 Republican Constituent, provided in the said Constitution that Sinhala shall be the Official Language of Sri Lanka and even removed the Section 29 Sub Section 4 of the Soulbury Constitution which was the safety clause for the minorities to wit inter alia "that no benefit will be conferred on one community which is not conferred on the other communities". So his action betrayed his utterances as a member of the opposition namely "One language two nations and two languages one nation". If he as the Minister of Constitutional Affairs stood by what he said earlier namely to implement the Republican Constitution of 1972, the North East war may have been averted.
Likewise Pieter Kueneman introduced the monstrous Rent Law and Ceiling on Housing Property Law.
The Prime Minister appoints Ministers and Deputy Ministers of his own choice and normally the ministers and deputy ministers so appointed are not suitable men but are "Yes Men" of the Prime Minister. This results in a weak Cabinet being formed to rule the country. All the ministers and deputy ministers have to abide by the orders of the Prime Minister though the Prime Minister may be a weakling. As a result the masses suffer. President J.R. Jayawardene in fact got letters of resignation signed by the members of Parliament and ministers in advance and retained them so that they could be compelled to toe the line.
If one wants to establish democracy in Sri Lanka or any other country, the members who represent the people should be free to vote according to their conscience and not have to remain subservient to the President.
To achieve this purpose firstly, "The Party system should be abolished" . In other words, elections should be held without a party label as it happened during the time of Donoughmore Constitution. i.e. to say all candidates for Parliamentary representation should seek election as independent candidates and be elected on their own merits. Even if they are supported by some, so-called parties, once they are elected to the Parliament they should be considered as independent members representing their constituencies.
Election of Speaker, Prime Minister, Ministers and Deputy Ministers
In Parliament, today, the members elect the Speaker by a majority vote. Likewise they must propose and second candidates for the post of Prime Minister and by majority votes, the Prime Minister must be elected. In a similar way they must elect all the Ministers and Deputy Ministers by majority votes. Thus the Prime Minister will not have control over the other members in the matter of exercising their votes, and the members will be free to use their votes according to their conscience. the majority decision will prevail. This is real Democracy.
There is no necessity to copy from the German, French, British, American and other constitutions for our constitution.
If the Prime Minister is found wanting or corrupt any member of the
House could bring in a Vote of No Confidence and remove the Prime Minister
from office, and elect another Prime Minister in his place. Likewise if
a Minister or Deputy Minister is found corrupt or incompetent, a motion
of No Confidence could be brought against him. Before the package proposed
by Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Planning and Justice, G. L. Peiris,
the fundamental changes in the Constitution as suggested above should be
implemented. Thereafter the package and the continuation of the existing
Provincial Councils could be considered.
-Continued from last week
The following suggestions reaffirm the Liberal commitment to plurality, by reintroducing a second chamber in which the regions shall have increased representation.
The proposals specify the system on which elections to the House of Representatives should be held. Though reference has been made elsewhere to the mixed German system, in fact what we have now, and what is proposed in the Government package, is a small number from the national list that does not help to make the whole House proportional to votes cast.
As is explained below, the German system is designed to create a chamber that strictly represents the proportional will of the people.
At the same time it has Constituency MPs who will provide a close personal link with the voters.
Details about the composition of the Senate will follow and also details about Parliamentary Committees that are designed to ensure a stronger involvement in administration on the part of legislators.
The central legislature
(1) There shall be a Parliament which shall consist of two chambers. The premier chamber shall be designated the House of Representatives and the second chamber shall be designated the Senate.
(2) The House of Representatives shall be elected for four years.
Elections to the House of Representatives shall take place at a fixed period every four years.
(3) The Senate shall be elected for four years. Elections to the Senate shall take place two years after elections to the House of Representatives, and at a fixed period every four years.
(4) Parliament shall have powers to make laws as allowed in the Constitution. Laws need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, save that any law passed by the House of Parliament in three successive years shall be deemed valid even if it has not received the assent of the Senate.
House of Representatives
(5) The House of Representatives shall consist of 200 members, half of whom shall be elected on a constituency basis, and half of whom shall be elected on a basis of proportional representation.
Members selected on the basis of proportional representation shall be chosen from party lists so as to ensure that the total representation in the House shall be in proportion to the choice of the people.
(6) For the purposes of election on a constituency basis, the country shall be divided into constituencies divided on the basis of population within each District.
(7) For the purposes of election to the House of Representatives each elector shall exercise two votes. The first vote shall be for an individual to represent the constituency.
The second shall be for a political party. The elector may vote for a party other than that of the individual for whom he votes to represent the constituency.
(8) The votes cast for individuals shall be added up on the basis of each constituency, and the candidate with a plurality of votes shall be declared elected as the representative of that constituency.
(9) The votes cast for political parties shall be added up for the country as a whole.
Each party shall be entitled to seats in Parliament as a whole on the basis of the proportion of votes it obtains in the country.
(10) According to the entitlement of each party, seats shall be allocated from its national list to make up the required figure, having taken into account the number of seats each such party has obtained from the various constituencies.
Note:The system prescribed above is that known as the German system.
This allows for individual constituencies while ensuring that Parliament represents the wishes of the voters proportionately.
The 100 members elected on the constituency basis will have a close tie with their constituents and be individually responsible for a particular area.
To give an example of the way the system works - Assume Party A wins 60 of the 100 constituencies but obtains only 40% of party votes nationwide, whereas Party B wins 20 of the 100 constituencies but obtains 35% of party votes nationwide. Party C, which is a regional party, wins 15 seats but obtains only 10 % of the vote, while Party D, also a regional party but one that has some national backing too, obtains 5 seats but also gets 10% of the party vote. Party E gets no seats but obtains 5% of the national vote.
On the national percentages, Party A should have 40% of 200 representative, ie. 80 representatives. Party B should have 35%, i.e. 70, Party C 10%, i.e. 20, Party D also 10%, i.e. 20 and Party E 5%, i.e. 10. From the national list Party A then gets 20 seats, which together with its 60 constituency seats gives it 80 altogether.
Party B gets 50 seats from the national list, which together with the 20 it already has makes 70 altogether. Party C gets 5 from the national list and Party D gets 15 which means that both have 20 in the end. Party E which had no constituency seats gets 10 from the national list, which is its total. The final composition of the House then is in accordance with the proportions of party preferences expressed by the voters.
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