Colombo: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced a raft of amendments to the electoral system, noting that the existing political system was a major cause for the current economic crisis.
“A referendum will be called to decide on the parliamentary electoral system if the Select Committee which is proposed to be established fails to decide on the matter by July next year,” the Daily FT newspaper quoted him as telling a meeting with professionals held at the President’s Office on Sunday.
The President said plans were also underway to slash the number of local government councillors by 50 per cent before the next election.
“Before the next election, I intend to reduce the number of council members for local governing bodies such as Pradeshiya Sabhas, Municipal Councils and Urban Councils from the current 8,000 to 4,000,” he added.
Wickremesinghe also said the ‘Jana Sabha’ will be introduced to streamline the local government councils.
“The Executive powers will be shifted to a chairman-led committee instead of a single chairman being vested with all the authority. The draft laws will be prepared to incorporate these amendments before the next local government elections,” he stressed.
Noting that the main cause for political corruption is the preferential system, President Wickremesinghe said a non-preferential list system or a mixed electoral system should be immediately adopted and restrictions should be imposed by the election law on the amount of money spent on elections.
“There are two main issues before the country today. One is the economic crisis while the other is the rejection of the political system by the majority of the population. Many are of the view that the cause of the economic collapse is the existing political system.
“Different groups have been formed within the Parliament due to the party system. I work for the people irrespective of narrow party lines,” he said.
The President cited fewer youth representatives as another key factor in the political parties today, the daily reported.
“Many work with the same old people just for namesake. There are no new organisations. Therefore, a separate law should be presented regarding the constitution of political parties, their work, how to recruit members, how to select central committees, and how to select candidates.”
He also said the main reason for corruption in the country’s politics is the preferential system, insisting that it was imperative to prepare a new voting system.
“A decision should be taken to implement either the list method without preference or the mixed method (single and proportional method). A decision should be taken after discussions before the upcoming election and that election should be held under the new system,” the Daily FT quoted him as saying.
Wickremesinghe also pointed out the need to curtail the election expenditure through the election laws.
“When I contested in the 1977 elections, there were limitations. We had to work in keeping with these limitations. We were unable to even spend on posters. Hence, we must introduce limitations on election expenditure.
“This will enhance transparency on how to collect money, and in what cases money cannot be collected. Then anyone can challenge the misuse of financials in the courts. I intend to appoint a separate commission to present their proposals in this regard. All this needs to be done next year,” he added.
He also pledged to present to Parliament a code of conduct and values of the MPs, similar to that in the British Parliament, the report added.
The President felt that if they bring all these rules and regulations and make these amendments, Parliament can win the people’s trust again.