COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – A proposal by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to limit the parliament to the current 225 members had been accepted by President Maithripala Sirisena saving ordinary citizens from a further expanded elected ruling class.
Other electoral reform proposals had attempted to increase the legislature to 255 in the guise of helping minorities.
The new electoral reforms proposed to elect 125 members from constituencies, 75 on a district-wise proportional representation list and 25 from a national list, the information office said.
Sri Lanka’s minorities had been hit by discriminatory legislation from the assembly which flouted a section (section 29) in the first constitution after gaining self-determination that prohibited discriminatory legislation any community or follower of any faith.
Sri Lanka’s 160 member legislature was expanded to 225 apparently without protest in the late 1970s by the UNP’s then leader J R Jayewardene.
The UNP then proceeded to make state workers and the ruling class income tax free (the ousted Rajapaksa regime ended income tax discrimination though the President himself is still exempt), but discrimination still exists in vehicle taxation.
Section 29 of the Soulbury constitution said that no law made by Parliament shall prohibit the or restrict the free exercise of any religion or;
(b) make persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are not made liable; or
(c) confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions.
In the 1950s a majority of legislators passed a ‘Sinhala Only Law’ despite the section 29, which gave an absolute guarantee of equality to citizens.
Constitutions were originally devised in Europe to give absolute guarantees of equality to citizens and restrain the ruling class, whether elected or not.
Sri Lanka however was gripped by nationalism, an ideology that was largely absent in feudal societies.
Political philosophers date the wider spread of ideology to late 19th century Eastern Europe in particular, to the period around the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Romanov Empires and the emergency of the popular vote.
Under current electoral reforms almost all political parties were pushing to end a practice of ‘preferential votes’ which was said to make campaigning excessively expensive leading to corruption.
The reforms plans to change the current system of proportional representation to a mix of ‘first past the post’ and proportional representation.
If plans to expand the elected ruling class had succeed, the legislator burden on the individual citizen, which was already 17 times that of India, would have risen to 19.7 times leaving only 81,000 citizens to support each member, compared to 1.5 million for India and 600,000 for the US.