Dissension within Govt. ranks stalls LG electoral reforms Bills

By Chandani Kirinde

The long awaited amendments to the Local Government (LG) election laws which were to be approved by Parliament last Tuesday, were further postponed due to a disagreement within the Government on the proposed changes in the electoral system.

The disagreement has cropped up over the change in the system of electing members to the LG in future, under which, 70% be elected under the Westminster (First-past-the Post) system, while 30% will be elected under the Proportional Representation (PR) system.

Minister of Local Government & Provincial Councils, A.L.M. Athaulla has suggested that 50% of the members be elected under the PR system and the other 50% under the Westminster system at a meeting of Government members, and hence, the decision to pass the Bills on Tuesday was put on hold.

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who headed the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms, and whose recommendations are the basis on which the LG election laws are being amended, said he is hopeful that legislation will be approved by early March at the latest.

He said that the amendments to the election law had been drafted after lengthy discussions, and are meant to ensure that there is a stable administration within the Councils. The Minister added that he is satisfied with the Bills, but as there are several amendments that have been suggested, they too would be discussed, before the Bills are put forward for parliamentary approval.

Meanwhile, Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga said that the UNP too would support the LG Bills.
UNP MP Sajith Premadasa said last week that he wants to propose two amendments; one to ensure more female representation within the local councils and the other to change the word “councillor”, which is currently used to refer to a person elected to a local body, to “member.’

The two delayed Bills now stalled at the Committee Stage debate, are the Local Government (Special Provisions) Bill and the Local Government Elections (Amendment) Bill.

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