The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

14th March 1999


A fool - proof electoral system

The proposals of the government for electoral reforms are being discussed and debated by political parties, other interested groups and the public at large. These proposals are a mix of the Westminster and the proportional system with a modicum of the much maligned preferential vote or the 'manape' as is popularly known.

It is generally accepted that this 'manape vote' has been the bane of our present electoral system. It has paved the way for several corrupt practices and undreamt of consequences like intra-party bickerings among their own candidates (which of course the public do not mind), large scale rigging at elections, thuggery and violence at polling stations and even environmental pollution. Worst of all it had left the average voter nonplussed and bewildered at the polling booth when presented with an extra large ballot paper with so many cages to be marked at four different places for the simple purpose of electing his representative. A complicated voting system like this does not help the average voter to make his or her choice of the candidate with a clear mind. He is disconcerted and confused and more often than not, ends up spoiling his ballot paper instead of marking, thus accounting for the unusually large number of rejected votes at the counts.

The Westminster system on the other hand is more simple and straight. Here the voter's choice of a candidate is clear and he has no difficulty in arriving at a decision. Even an uneducated villager knows for whom he is going to vote, at least the symbol of his candidate if not the name. To cite just one example from my own experience at a polling booth in the Mahara electorate way back in the sixties - an old villager sought the assistance of the SPO to mark his ballot paper. When asked by the SPO for whom he should vote, without any hesitation he indicated the symbol of his candidate adding that if anybody asked how he voted, to say that he voted for the other party. We couldn't help laughing despite the seriousness of the matter.

I for one do not believe that we would be able to devise a fool-proof electoral system of our own. There is also no need to be original thinkers in this regard when there are so many tested systems to be adopted with minor changes and alterations to suit our needs. If we do not want to go back to the old Westminster system, the next best seems to be the German system of electoral and proportional representation. We can elect an MP for each electorate under the first-past-the-post and allocate the remaining seats propotionately among the political parties on the basis of total votes polled at national level. What is more important however, is the selection of these national list MPs.

They should be eminent persons drawn from among the professionals, intellectuals, academics, businessmen, entrepreneurs and philanthropists who have rendered signal service to the community. They should be persons whose honesty and integrity are beyond question and who are capable of making a significant contribution to the affairs of Parliament. The ordinary upstart or arriviste types with dubious credentials should never be appointed as national list MPs.

While on the subject of electoral reforms, it would also be appropriate to consider laying down a minimum educational qualification for those seeking election as MPs.

Considering the responsibilities devolving on an MP these days, and his cost to the exchequer, a university degree or an equivalent may not be too high in this regard. It would go a long way in ensuring better discipline in the House and more purposeful discussion on matters coming up before it. Giving a place to the ordinary man is not to send him to the Parliament. He may not have a role there. The common man has to be led by far-sighted and discerning leaders and leadership is not a quality that comes easily to everybody.

P.G.A. Henry,

Cemetery at Maddewela in Bentota

Sections 3 and 93 (c) of the Pradeshiya Sabha Act No. 15 of 1977 state that it is the function of Pradeshiya Sabhas to control and administer all matters relating to public health.

I wish to point out that the cemetery at Maddewela in Bentota, which is supposed to be administered by the Bentota Pradeshiya Sabha is like a mini jungle overgrown with wild plants which have not been cleared for a number of years owing to the lethargic attitude of this Sabha.

Burials and cremations of dead bodies are being done haphazardly without being overseen by a responsible officer of this Pradeshiya Sabha to conserve the land available in a well planned manner. No separate plot of land is assigned for the needs of the religious bodies.

It appears that our ancient method of disposing the dead bodies of the common man is still lingering in the minds of the people.People pay scant attention to keep the place clean after the burials and cremations are over.

This place is now full of pieces of plastic cloth used for decorations and other discarded articles strewn all over the place. As a result this cemetery has become an eyesore as well as an insult to the dead lying peacefully here.

A.D. Jayaweera,

Sick of the Party system

I refer to the discussion on the TNL TV recently with Sirisena Cooray and Mr. Cooray's ideas and reference to the formation of a National Government in Sri Lanka which will benefit the masses.

I presume every citizen in Sri Lanka will totally agree with Mr. Cooray's idea as this is the only type of government which will be most essential to Sri Lanka, if every citizen of Sri Lanka irrespective of whatever race, religion and nationality they belong to, is to benefit and the country flourish.

I believe most citizens of Sri Lanka are now sick of all these party systems which have created a fighting atmosphere, with no healthy solution ahead of us.

If you take, for example, the recent Wayamba election scenario and all the TV discussions as a result, it clearly emphasises that one party is finding fault with the other. It is like the pot calling the kettle black.We are now tired of all these fairy stories. Let us get together and join hands together as Mr. Cooray says and work for a better future for Sri Lanka instead of washing dirty linen and one party blaming the other of misdoings.

Let the politicos open their eyes and minds even at this stage and contribute to find a viable solution to form a national Government.

I believe there are able, genuine and quality individuals in all our parties leaving aside the money makers and betrayers to make a National Government a viable success.

Douglas De Alwis,
Mt. Lavinia.

Telecom, where is your service?

The severe lightning on Monday February 22 night had affected my telephone and it was duly reported to Telecom the following day.

Despite five phone calls to the Ja-Ela Telecom plus assurances and reassurances that the line would be restored within the day itself, it still remains dead.

I would have expected this kind of slipshod service when Telecommunications functioned as a government body. But when Telecommunication services have been privatized and phone bills have nearly trebled within the last few years, we consumers are certainly justified in expecting prompt attention to complaints. If Telecom fails to provide service to match its charges what right has it to increase rentals and tariffs whenever it wishes to? I understand there is a further 25% increase round the corner. Telecom has no moral justification to inflate its prices by such a massive amount if it cannot provide basic services to its customers.

Geetha W. Bibile

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