100% increase under new system.
Doubling of the number of members of local authorities from current 4,000 to 8,000 in accordance with the newly introduced hybrid electoral system would be a massive burden on the taxpayer, civil society grouping, the ‘March 12 Movement’ said yesterday.
People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) spokesperson Rohana Hettiarachchi said the very purpose of the new system would be lost if electors failed to choose honest candidates who hadn’t been jailed, received suspended sentences, embroiled in corruption or abuse of political power.
The ‘March 12 Movement’ came into being within weeks of the change of government in January 2015.
Manjula Gajanayake of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) also affiliated to the March 12 Movement said the number of local government members could be as many as 8,300.
Gajanayake emphasised the urgent need to examine future requirement in respect of infrastructure as well as funding to meet the 100 per cent increase in the strength of local government representatives.
The civil society activist said that once the local government elections were held those elected would agitate for several months demanding facilities. Both Gajanayake and Hettiarachchi pointed out Provincial Council and Local Government Ministry wasn’t geared to cater to more than 4,000 additional councillors in the absence of a proper system now.
Gajanayake urged the ministry to conduct an immediate survey to identify the needs.
Asked by The Island whether the March 12 Movement’s call made to political parties to field honest politicians at the forthcoming local government polls applied to Provincial Council and parliamentary polls as well, Hettiarachchi said “Yes.”
When The Island asked him whether he realized the impracticability of their effort against the backdrop of Central Bank-Perpetual Treasuries bond scams perpetrated weeks before the setting up of the March 12 Movement,
Hettiarachchi emphasized their resolve to fight for a better system.
Hettiarachchi claimed that due to efforts made by the civil society, the two major political parties had deprived several undesirable elements nominations to contest parliamentary polls in 2015 August. Challenged by The Island to name at least one such rejected politician, Hettiarachchi said that it wouldn’t be right.
Hettiarachchi strongly criticized those members of parliament as well as Provincial Councils who acted irresponsibly. The PAFFREL chief expressed concern over members routinely skipping parliament at the expense of the multi-party democratic system.
Hettiarachchi, Gajanayake, Nisantha Prithiraj (Sarvodaya), Shashee de Mel (Transparency International), Athavuda Jayawardena (OPA), Hemanthi Gunasekera and Saman Hamangoda urged political parties to field suitable candidates. They said that political parties should accept the responsibility for fielding the best as the voters no longer enjoyed the right to choose one from three candidates as in the previous system but one candidate picked by the party.
Alleging that the country had been overwhelmed by unbridled corruption Athavuda Jayawardena said the electorate for some strange reason continued to vote for corrupt politicians. Jayawardena said waste, corruption and irregularities had deprived those struggling to make ends meet even basic facilities.
The civil activist urged the media to step up attacks on those engaged in corruption and facilitate their efforts to create a cleaner political environment.
Jayawardena explained how the growing black market economy ruined the country with those responsible for the wellbeing of the masses causing irreparable damage to the national economy.