There is a specific objective of introducing the National List in the Constitution of 1978. It is to get important people who are reluctant to contest elections involved in the policy formulation and law making process. Professionals, academics and leaders of insignificant communities such as Malays, Burghers, Vedda and disabled people belong to this category. It was never intended to be used as a shortcut or backchannel to bring defeated candidates to Parliament.
In order to meet the objective of the national list, high profile personalities such as Prof G.L. Peiris, Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Prof. Rizvi Sherifdeen, Prof. Colvin Gunaratne, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Prof. Kapila Gunasekara, D.E.W. Gunasekara and Gevindu Kumaranatunga were included in the UPFA National List. The people who voted for the UPFA expected these high profile persons to be in Parliament. Unfortunately, none of them were appointed to Parliament.
The UPFA was able to secure 12 parliamentary slots from the national list. All twelve opportunities were given to political refugees who lost the election or who got themselves included in the national list fearing electoral loss. People voted out a politician at the election with the intention of denying him Parliament. Appointing such a politician to Parliament through the national list is against democratic and good governance principles. In fact, President Sirisena has laughed at the people’s verdict by appointing defeated politicians to Parliament.
The GCE O/L examination is the first hurdle faced by any Sri Lankan. A student can study for the GCE A/L examination only if he passes the O/L examination. Imagine a situation in which a principal abuses his authority to permit a student who failed the O/L examination to study for the A/L examination. If the principal can do so, there will be no need of holding the O/L examination wasting resources of both the government and the students. On the other hand, students will spend the time and energy to win the heart of the principal without concentrating the studies. Similarly, if the defeated candidates can enter Parliament through the national list, it will be in vain to spend resources of the government and candidates for elections. Because of this bad practice, politicians would spend time and energy to win the confidence of the party leader instead of winning people by serving them.
No moral right
There is another aspect of national list appointments. As witnessed by the entire country, President Sirisena and Madam Chandrika campaigned against the UPFA during the election. They urged the people to vote for the UNP. As a result, Polonnaruwa and Gampaha which were traditional strongholds of the UPFA and home-districts of respectively President Sirisena and Chandrika, were won by rival UNP. Hence, 12 national list slots secured by the UPFA were earned by Mahinda loyalists. President Sirisena has no moral right to nominate a single person to the UPFA slots. However, he nominated parliamentarians for all twelve slots denying any opportunity to Mahinda loyalists who were the rightful claimants.
Political coalitions are very common in Sri Lankan history. The first such alliance was the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna established by the SLFP, RLSSP, United Bhikku Front and Language Front. Since then, the lead partners of these coalitions have looked after the other coalition partners. No single lead partner has appointed national list members solely from its members. Unfortunately, the SLFP leadership has become the first party to ignore the rest of the coalition partners in appointment of national list members.
Fifteen of the 85 elected parliamentarians of the UPFA are non SLFPers. It amounts to 18%. Further, the LSSP and SLMP have also contributed to secure these 85 members despite their failing to get a party member elected. Hence, these minor parties have earned their national list slots instead of begging those from the SLFP. Denial of a national list slot to the LSSP has caused irreparable damage as the first political party has lost the opportunity to be represented in Parliament. Although the LSSP was established in 1935, its leaders have been represented in Parliament since 1931. The LSSP was not present in Parliament only for 11 years, from 1977 to 1989, since there was no parliamentary election during this period. However, the first political party in Sri Lankan history has been denied Parliament because of the autocratic rule in the UPFA.
The SLFP is undoubtedly the lead partner in the UPFA. The UPFA sans SLFP has no capacity to capture the power. Similarly, the SLFP has never governed the country without the support of a coalition. Whenever the SLFP contested alone, it faced humiliating defeats. Coalition politics has been mutually beneficial for both the SLFP and the other coalition partners. Please imagine a plate of lunch. More than 75% of it consists of rice. Curries are less in quantity. Nevertheless, nobody eats rice without curries. The appetite for rice is generated by curries. The SLFP without minor parties can be compared to rice without curries.
The present leader of the SLFP became the president of the nation with the support of the UNP. The UNPers sacrificed their lives to bring President Sirisena to power. On the other hand, the SLFPers worked their best to defeat President Sirisena. Hence, he is naturally under obligation to support the UNP. Nobody can blame him for his behaviour. President Sirisena has acted in a manner which would boost the image of the UNP. When the UNP has appointed national list nominees to Parliament, the SLFP has appointed defeated politicians instead of the high profile individuals in the national list. Hence, people’s confidence in the UNP has been enhanced while that of the SLFP deteriorated. Therefore, the SLFPers have a reasonable doubt that President Sirisena grabbed the leadership of the SLFP with the ulterior motive of destroying it to ensure a brighter future for the UNP.
In light of above analysis, President Sirisena’s actions such as appointment of defeated candidates and Maithri loyalists and denial of the opportunity for professionals in the national list are against the principles of good governance and democracy. There were Buddhist monks, academics and artistes to be critical about President Rajapaksa’s government in the name of good governance.
The same group now appears before the media to justify these shameless conducts of the present government. Their behaviour proves that they were merely meeting a contractual obligation to defeat President Rajapaksa instead of establishing good governance in the country.