It is reported in the press that the Delimitation Commission has proposed to introduce a 50:50 ratio and increase the number of bonus seats to tide over the issues of stability and minority representation in the Provincial Councils. Let me briefly deal with the said issues which unfortunately seem to be still entrenched in the minds of some our leading politicians, political pundits, academics and civil activists.
Stability in Provincial Councils
This parochial concept founded on maintaining an absolute majority in the Council for all purposes is not in keeping with the principles of a liberal democracy where all parties should contribute to arrive at the best solution favouring the Council/country after a healthy debate. Maintaining an absolute majority will in fact lead to misguided, dictatorial decisions. ‘Hung’ or ‘unstable’ Councils/Parliament should become misnomers when professionals with country at heart deliberate and decide on the best fine-tuned options for the Council/Parliament/Country.
In our view, at any level of elections, all votes should be considered as cast by ‘Sri Lankans’ giving equal value to every valid vote. Only this concept can iron out the elusive issue of voting based on ethnicity, religion, caste, etc. The application of proportionate arithmetic in a ‘cut and dry’ scientific manner, to determine the number of seats won in a district by each party, will ensure an ‘equal value’ for each Sri Lankan vote in a district.
Why should a feeling of ‘minority’ make a section of the citizenry downgrade themselves and beg for preferential treatment on the one hand and why should the ‘majority’ feel good by giving preferential treatment to their fellow citizens on the other? It is very unfortunate and sad that we are still not ready to think as ‘Sri Lankans’ having equal rights and duties. If we perpetuate this parochial ‘Majority and Minority’ syndrome, with the proposed changes, our country will never ever come out of this abysmal ethnic conflict.
Promote ‘Sri Lankan’ concept through electoral process
The delimitation exercise should take all variables in to account and generate the pre-determined number of seats allocated to each district and dispense with the application of post-election measures such as ad hoc ratios and bonus seats, not scientifically founded on empirical evidence and research, to strike a balance in a liberal democratic process of exercising voter franchise.
As stated above, the electoral process can surely catalyse this elusive and seemingly difficult paradigm shift towards a cultural and attitudinal change of treating all citizens as ‘Sri Lankans’.