The JHU which is a constituent of the government with one cabinet seat has proposed an expanded 270-member parliament, up from the present 225-member legislature the retention of which the mainstream parties favour, with national list places too increased to 40 from 29 at present.
The controversial proposal to the All Party Representative Committee was defended by Mr. Udaya Gammanpila, a senior lay member of what is largely a party of Buddhist monks who said that the proposal must looked at in its total context which also demanded the ending of provincial councils and reduction of the cabinet size.
``This would save the country a great deal of money,`` he urged. ``The implementation of the total proposal will greatly ease the burden on the taxpayer.``
While the JHU proposal in totality is looked upon with favour by many political parties and professionals, they do not agree with the suggestion of a larger parliament with more MPs.
``The country cannot afford this,`` an official of another party said on condition of anonymity. ``It`s unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous. I can`t understand how anybody thinks that a bigger parliament will help resolve the national question.``
The JHU proposal also seeks limiting the cabinet to 25 members through a constitutional provision, abolishing non-cabinet portfolios and restricting the number of deputy ministers to 30. It also urges the slashing of perks of elected officials.
The government is already under heavy fire over the present cabinet size, the perks and privileges showered on politicians including the recent salary increase reflected on the pensions of former MPs.
Outside the JHU, there is little or no support for the proposal to increase the number of national list MPs getting a free ride into parliament either because they are unelectable or for various party considerations.
``Other than Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, it`s hard to think of anybody who deserved a `free` seat in parliament,`` a senior politician admitted. ``But the national list has certainly helped party leaders to get over uncomfortable situations.``
He pointed out that being on a national list is no guarantee of being finally accommodated with the best examples being Dr. W. Dahanayaka and Mr. Maitripala Senananayake who were fielded on their national lists by the UNP and SLFP respectively, but were left out in the final reckoning.
The Parliamentary Select Committee of Electoral Reforms chaired by MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardene has recommended that the parliament stays with its present 225-members with 140 elected on the Westminster-style first past the post method (FPP), 70 on district proportional representation based on votes polled by those who did not make it on FPP, and 15 national list seats.