Turn National List 29 Members into an Advisory Council not MPs
Sri Lanka’s Parliament consists of 225 Members of Parliament from which 196 are elected by the People and 29 are not-elected but nominated by the respective parties & enter depending on the allocation as per the votes obtained by each party. Therefore, the composition of the National List corresponds to the votes won by parties. Given that the National List are supposed to be professionals who are not politicians, they should not enjoy perks given to politicians. The 29 Member National List should be transformed into an Advisory Council with no mandate to enforce laws but with ability to scrutinize Bills and make Proposals and Recommendations that the 196 MPs must respect.
From the last few months, it is apparent that the country faces some serious issues that it needs to deal with
- Unsuited candidates nominated by political parties ending in Parliament
- Inability to change these unsuited candidates once elected until next election
- National List manipulated & abused by Political parties
- External threats to Parliamentary democracy
They say one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Likewise, candidates that some deem distasteful maybe doing a service to their electorate. In such a scenario, it is the prerogative of the electorate to decide and others must respect it.
There is different schools of thought regarding criteria – some insist on a degree, some are happy with a basic A/L qualification or equivalent – a paper qualification is important but best to have criteria set for portfolios too. However, what we need to understand is that a politician is far different to a professional. Politicians are dealing with people and people’s wants, needs and problems are somewhat difficult for compartmentalize as professionals like to do. We can see the difficulties that professionals have found in adjusting to life as a politician. However, to filter bad eggs from wanting to come forward to contest not to serve the nation nor the people but to advance their agendas.
Remove unsuited candidates
As per the present system, once unsuited candidates enter Parliament, people have to wait till the next election to vote them out.
It has been suggested to incorporate a RIGHT OF RECALL – this is a petition to recall an elected MP for any misadventure or abuse of power. However, even in the countries where this provision is available, there are not too many cases of its success.
Instead would like to propose a new provision – RIGHT TO REJECT. Here candidates that apply for nomination to a political party, publish the final list & the public are able to petition to REJECT a candidate they feel is unsuited to be nominated from the party. By this method, unsuited candidates can be prevented from entering the political system at nomination stage itself.
Abusing National List
At times the one’s rejected by vote end up re-entering from the national list, while even those who cross-over and are expelled from their party run to the Supreme Court & obtain an injunction to prevent expulsion. Electoral reforms must address this.
- No politician should have been included into the National List
- No rejected candidate should have been allowed to re-enter from the National List
Parliamentary Democracy under threat
In 2016, the then government knowingly or unknowingly signed up to become Asia’s first Open Government plan to enable an inclusive parliament bringing in civil society & NGOs. The catch here is that these NGOs and civil society being promoted to be placed in Parliament are envoys of those that fund them. This means that the external entities are plotting to send their nominees without entering from an election into Parliament to determine policy and reforms. By now we should realize the dangers in store. These entrants are unlikely to be doing anything for the benefit of the nation or its people but only to advance the geopolitical agendas of their paymasters as they currently do and that can be revealed by examples.
Therefore, any civil society or NGO heads (whether they are or are not funded by foreign entities) if they so want to enter Parliament must do so by election and not via new initiatives with ulterior motives. This means, the plan is to manipulate the National List and include foreign-funded NGOs and Civil Society as “professionals” into the national list quota.
Given these threats looming before us, it is important to decide to safeguard Parliamentary sovereignty and turn the National List into an Advisory Body only.
National List – as an Advisory Body
- 29 Members to the Advisory Body can be nominated by State universities/ registered State professional bodies/chambers & local civil society/NGOs & presented to the Elections Commission.
- A vote is held among those nominated & the most votes becomes the Chairman of the Advisory Body.
- The Chairman of the Advisory Body selects a team of 5 depending on the subject area of the Bill they are called to give their observations on.
- 29 Member National List must have a separate Chamber for their deliberations
- 29 Members should not be given MP status
- 29 Members should not get same perks & privileges as an MP – this is because these professionals will continue to function in their respective professional roles. Making them an MP creates conflict of interest & entertains unnecessary issues.
- 29 Members should function as an advisory body but not a body allowed to make their proposals or recommendations mandatory upon MPs
- 29 Members can present their proposals to the public & entertain public views and opinions as well. These submissions by public must be made available for public scrutiny on a website.
- 29 Members must be presented copies of Bill prior to enactment & deadline should be given for the National List Advisory Body to submit their determinations on any Bill before enactment. This corresponds with the time given to the Public to file FR once a Bill is gazetted.
These are just a preliminary set of suggestions & open for review.
The rationale behind this is to make maximum use of professionals & their professional knowledge instead of putting them as politicians, an area which is now unsuited for them. What is important to realize is that if the National List was created to bring in Professionals – only professionals must be brought in, not to govern but to provide advice, help policy and suggest proposals.
By turning the 29 National List into an Advisory Body, these professionals can play a significant role where their knowledge and inputs are concerned.
This is open for discussion and debate
Shenali D Waduge