Electoral reforms despite threats of revolt
A major row is brewing and the government is even facing a revolt from its allies over electoral reforms – but minister Dinesh Gunawardena who heads the select committee yesterday vowed to go ahead and present the interim report to Parliament.
Minister Gunawardena, now overseas, told The Sunday Times the report would be presented as it had the consent of the majority in the committee.
The Select Committee was established one and a half years ago and the report was prepared after much deliberation with all sections of society and discussions with political parties represented in Parliament, Minister Gunawardena said.
The presentation of the interim report is opposed by the majority of the parties in the opposition as well as from three parties within the ruling alliance.
But Mr. Gunawardena said the report had the support of 20 of the 31 committee members, including four UNP dissidents and a JHU MP.
All major opposition parties including the UNP, the JVP and the TNA as well as government allies the CWC and the SLMC are opposed to the presentation of the interim report saying that it should not be done without a consensus.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe headed a joint opposition news conference, minus the JVP, at the parliamentary complex last Thursday and announced electoral reforms could be carried out only by a consensus as well as a mandate from the people at a referendum.
“We represent the majority in Parliament. Some committee members have given the impression they are the majority. They are not the majority at all,” he said.
SLMC leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem who is on the Committee said his party was deeply dissatisfied by the manner in which attempts were being made to rush through electoral reforms. He said the contents of the report did not reflect the views of different political parties on the Committee.
The others opposed to the interim report are the Up-Country People’s Front (UPF) led by minister P. Chandrsekeran and the Western Province People’s Front led by Mano Ganeshan.
The JVP too is opposed to the move to rush through a report which is not endorsed by all the members. JVP MP Vijitha Herath said the three JVP MPs on the Committee too would not sign it.
Minister Gunawardena however accused the opposition parties of working towards individual agendas despite the parties getting a mandate from the voters to do away with the present electoral system.
“The Opposition parties wanted to discuss the establishment of a Second Chamber and to do way with the executive presidency. We informed the parties that the Select Committee cannot include these points,” he said.
Mr. Gunawardena claimed reports of select committees had never been endorsed by all as there had always been “extremist and unreasonable groups” on such committees.
The charge that the reforms were being rushed through was also rejected by UNP dissident and minister Rajitha Senaratne. “This select committee is a follow-up to the one appointed in 2002 and is not a new one. Its report will ensure the most democratic manner in electing the people’s representatives.