Plus - Letters to the editor

Electoral reforms: Combining both systems for better governance

The pros and cons, or the advantages and disadvantages, of the First-Past-the-Post (FPP) and the Proportional Representation (PR) systems have been discussed at length for several years. One of the worst features of the FPP system was seen when one party was able to obtain a large majority of seats ( in 1977) that enabled them to rule the country for 17 years , though a significant number of the people had not voted for them. Perhaps in an attempt to prevent such a situation, which could possibly backlash on him or his party, and to grant parliamentary representation on the basis of the proportion of votes cast for a party (collective “voice” of the people), the then leader introduced the PR system.

However the form of PR that was then introduced brought out the inevitable struggle and in-fighting within a party for preferential votes. It has also necessitated the alliance of several parties to form a government because no one party by itself alone, has been able to obtain a complete majority. This has resulted in very large cabinets.

This proposal, presented in a summary form, is based on a combination of the advantageous features of the two systems, eliminating preferential votes. It has the added feature of enhancing the stability of governance.

The numbers of MPs for the various categories (of MPS) are based on the present number of 225 Parliamentary seats ; the numbers mentioned below are for the purpose of discussion, and they could be suitably changed.

Three categories of MPs are proposed

1. 120 MPs on FFP
Firstly, for this purpose it would become necessary to appoint a Commission to determine the 120 seats. It need hardly be mentioned that a party could nominate only one candidate for one electorate.
Some of those who have failed to get elected on the FPP system, would however have won a seat , under the present PR Thus, it is being proposed that these defeated candidates be considered for selection on the PR system.

2. 80 MPs on the PR system
All candidates who fail to get elected on the FPP system shall be placed on a list in the order of an “acceptability score”,which would be calculated on the percentage of votes that they have obtained from the total number of valid votes that have been cast in their particular electorate. This score is an index of the degree of their personal and party acceptability. The first 80 on this “acceptability score” would be elected as MPs on the PR system In the rare situation where the number of defeated candidates is insufficient for a party to fill up the number that it is entitled to, it is suggested that the party could nominate any of its members to complete the quota. This proposal ( No 2 ) would thus obviate the obnoxious system of preferential votes.

3. 25 Nominated MPs
It is suggested that only those who would represent areas of expertise, or maybe those from some unrepresented groups should be considered. This would provide an opportunity for the country to obtain the services of eminent persons. It would be inadvisable (preferably prohibited) to nominate defeated candidates It is suggested that the 25 Nominated MPs should be distributed as follows:

a) 15 MPs to be allocated to a party according to the proportion of the total votes received, nation-wide
b) Special allocation of 10 MPs to the party that is called upon to form the government ; this is to ensure stability of governance, prevention of a “hung Parliament”, and / or an unnecessary large number of Ministers.

The above proposal would ensure a better stability of the governing party. In the event of the unlikely collapse of the government, the government would also lose the 10 seats previously allocated to it. These 10 seats would then be allocated to the new party Cross Overs

Independent MPs, shall have the right to join any party or to change party affiliations from time to time
MPs who enter Parliament through a political party shall not have the right to cross over to another party; but they would be permitted to join the group of Independent members, without the right of joining any party subsequently.

Similarly, Nominated Members shall not have the right to cross over to another party. . However, they too would not be denied the right to join the group of Independent members and remain as independent members, without the right of joining any party subequently.

Provincial and other Elections:

The same principles proposed for Parliamentary elections could be suitably modified.

Prof. Herbert A. Aponso Via email

Use some Southern Expressway money to fix wretched IDH road

For the first time in my life I see an expressway being advertised. For the first time in my life I see people celebrating on a road – with dancing MPs, elephant races, and damsels. The Southern Expressway starts in Kottawa. They say people who live along this expressway route can now get home early and spend more time with the family. But how can one get to Kottawa from Colombo in double quick time? It takes 90 minutes or longer, depending on the traffic.

I wish a fraction of the money spent on publicising the expressway was spent repairing the badly damaged IDH road between Welikada and Koswatte Road. We Rajagiriya residents too like to get home early and spend quality time with the family.

This road is used as an alternative to the Parliament Road, and the traffic is very heavy. A few months ago, the road was dug up to lay a pipe line. It remains unrepaired to date. At certain places, the middle of the road has been dug up. One has to experience it to understand what we go through. It is not safe even to walk. Schoolchildren are splashed with mud on their way to school. You could bathe elephants in the pot holes.

While all eyes are on the new expressway, someone should look at these poorly maintained roads, which hamper the country’s productivity. Development should cover all aspects. Is it wise to spend so much money to “open” this expressway? This highway belongs to the people – it is their money that will be used to pay back the loans. Why can’t we do away with tamashas, opening ceremonies and silly celebrations? Our people are so blind that they cannot see that all this is being done at their expense to boost the egos of politicians. When will the people ever learn that politicians do not spend their own money to show off to the country their so-called generosity?

Felicia Gunawardana, Rajagiriya

Expressway signage concerns

I was so happy and proud to see that Sri Lanka has at last built an express-highway, with a toll system, and so on. But I have a query regarding the signage on the Southern Expressway.

Why is the “Exit” on the express-highway in English only? Do we live in Europe? Why are there no Sinhala and Tamil exit signs? Also, are there signs ordering vehicles to slow down at sharp bends? If the expressway builders could not altogether eliminate the sharp bends, they should at least have made sure that vehicles are cautioned to reduce speeds when they approach these bends.

In a country like Sri Lanka, where heavy rains are experienced very often, these bends taken at high speed invite disaster.

Shabir Zainudeen, Dubai, UAE

Decent toilets needed along Jaffna-Colombo route

The Colombo-Jaffna journey by bus to takes 11 hours, and some 75 buses ply between Colombo and Jaffna daily, mostly in the nights. Buses stop on the way for a break in Negombo, Vavuniya, Murgandi, Ikrigollawa, and so on.

Decent toilet facilities are just as important as food and refreshment on the long journey. Most of the Jaffna-bound passengers starve for five hours before embarking on the 11-hour journey in order to avoid having to use dirty toilets along the way.

The hotels and restaurants on this route have primitive and unhygienic toilets, some without water or lights. The stench is unbearable. Conditions inside and outside the toilets are appalling. Imagine the plight of the women and children who have to use these filthy toilets.

How can a person travel for 11 hours in a vehicle without at least wanting to pass urine? Passengers will not mind paying a few rupees to use clean toilets. When a bus departs, the toilets should be cleaned.

Where are the Public Health Inspectors, who are supposed to monitor public hygiene, and the MPs representing the Tamil community? Is it not their duty to provide clean toilets for the Jaffna travellers?
Bus drivers should be instructed not to patronise places where the toilets are dirty.

The local authorities in towns and villages along the Colombo-Jaffna route should construct toilets for the convenience of travellers and charge a fee for their maintenance, like the UDA-maintained toilets at Galle Face, Colombo.

Karalasingam Sivalingam, Nugegoda

Dengue does not have to spell death

I refer to the news item headed “Dengue deaths are preventable if proper procedures are followed” (Sunday Times, November 6).

Young and old are snatched away by this dread disease. Not many days after the onset of the disease the patient succumbs, and the victim generally behaves and moves about like a healthy individual to the very end.

It was thought that there was no cure for this cruel disease, but your news says otherwise. The statement that no patient who walks into a hospital should leave the hospital in a coffin is very heartening.

We expect the authorities to ensure that procedures are followed in all hospitals to ensure that dengue deaths are eliminated. There should also be awareness among our people to seek treatment for fever patients at hospitals as early as possible.

T. Kumar, Point Pedro

Blessed are we

Blessed are we to see
This 2,600th anniversary
Of our Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment
At the foot of the
Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi!

Blessed are we to see,
Respect and worship,
Its sacred branch
Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura!'
Venerated by all faiths!

Let us never forget
That great Theri Sanghamitta
Who brought this priceless tree
To Hela Diva or Lanka
On Unduwap Full Moon day!
O Great Theri
You brought another priceless gem
The Bhikkhuni Sasana
Or the Order of Buddhist nuns
Thus laying the foundation
For the rights of Lankan women.

You will be ever remembered
With honour and gratitude
By Buddhists all over the world
Especially by the womenkind
As long as sun and moon shine!

Renowned seats of learning
Named after you
Are monuments
To your great name.

It is a blessing
To call myself
An old Sanghamittian.

Sri Lankan Buddhists –
Ever pay homage to you
On this Unduwap Full Moon day
O great Theri Sanghamitta!

Malini Hettige

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