Sri Lanka political parties need internal democracy: Eran

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s political parties should follow a democratic process in selecting leaders and candidates for elections, State Minister for Finance Eran Wickramaratne, said as speculation mounted over candidates for upcoming presidential polls.

In political parties of many South Asian countries lacked internal democracy, he said.

"That is true for the major political parties in Sri Lanka," he said. "That is true for India."

He said in mature democracies, candidates go through a democratic process in selecting candidates even for local government elections.

"In Sri Lanka all that is in the hands of the leaders of political parties," Wickramaratne said

"Then the leaders themselves are there are not elected, generally. There is no regular electoral process. Sometimes you legitimize what you have by having an election.

"Internal democracy means there leadership of the political party must be elected. There can be appointed officers within that but the basic leadership must be elected."

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These included positions such as the leader, the deputy leader, assistant leader and national organizer.

At the Sri Lanka Freedom Party decision were made at home around the dinner table at one time, he said.

Wickramaratne said an ‘electoral college’ style body should decide the candidates or leadership.

In Sri Lanka most parties had a political structure which could be expected to play a democratic role in selecting candidates.

"In the UNP we have something called the working committee which could be part of the electoral college," Wickramaratne said.

"Then there are the members who are in parliament. They have been elected by the people they have come through some process, that is probably the most legitimate part of that electoral college.

He said senior leadership should be elected, but some officials could be appointed.

In South Asia political dynasties were common.

In Sri Lanka there was a hereditary elected ruling class, critics say. In the current parliament members were children or nephews and nieces of past politicians, which was also not in the best traditions of democracy.

"Sajith Premadasa should not become the leader of the UNP because he is his father’s son," Wickramaratne, said when asked whether Premadasa, whose father was a former President should be considered for future leadership.

"Sajith Premadasa should become the leader of the party only if he puts himself forward and the electoral college votes for him.

"I am not saying to exclude capable people of the younger generation just because the older generation was in it. What I am saying is that they should come through the process. But they should not come as a right. They should come on merit."

He said the younger generation may be better education and more suitable than an earlier generation. (Colombo/May27/2019)