The National List (NL) mechanism was created to help eminent persons enter Parliament without contesting elections which they detest. But, sadly, it continues to be abused to appoint defeated candidates to the national legislature.
Those who vote for a particular political party at parliamentary polls, endorse its NL. Therefore, using the mechanism to appoint as MPs the candidates rejected by the voters is tantamount to a distortion of the will of the electorate.
The UNP’s decision against appointing political rejects to Parliament via the NL is to be highly commended. Even the worst critics of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will praise him, albeit grudgingly, for that. It may be recalled that he did not appoint even his trusted lieutenant, Vajira Abeywardene, who lost the 2010 general election, to Parliament through the NL, in spite of pressure from the party and his loyalists. Vajira has won this time.
Regrettably, moves are reportedly being made to appoint some of the defeated UPFA candidates in the good books of President Maithripala Sirisena to Parliament through the NL. True, there is a constitutional provision for making such appointments, but the fact remains that everything that the Constitution provides for does not necessarily conform to democratic norms and the principle of good governance. The 18th Amendment was a case in point. Thankfully, it was abolished. The Constitution is full of such draconian features and those who champion good governance must not make use of them to further their interests. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was hauled over the coals—and rightly so—for using those provisions.
President Sirisena remained neutral at Monday’s election, to all intents and purposes, in spite of being the leader of the SLFP and the UPFA and, worse, his party suffered an ignominious defeat in his home district, Polonnaruwa. Above all, his speeches and letters through which he sought to settle personal scores with his erstwhile boss, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and queer the latter’s pitch, proved inimical to the interests of the UPFA in the run-up to the August 17 election. Therefore, the question is whether he has any moral right to decide on the UPFA NL appointments.
President Sirisena and other champions of good governance condemned Mahinda Rajapaksa for trying to make a comeback after being rejected at the Jan. 08 presidential election. A reject was a reject and he had to gracefully retire, he was told. So, how can they justify their attempts to appoint some of those rejected by the people at the recent general election, to Parliament via the NL? Is it that they think some political rejects are more equal than others?
There has been a campaign against the preferential vote or manape which is blamed for intraparty disputes, election violence and preventing decent men and women entering politics. Even the Rajapaksa loyalists subscribe to this view. What would have happened to them if the August 17 election had been conducted without the preferential vote mechanism? Party leaders including the President would have been able to appoint MPs from the lists of candidates according to their whims and fancies!
A candidate fails to get elected at a general election because voters do not consider him or her fit enough to enter Parliament. Last year, university teachers, the media and the then Opposition raised hell, claiming that a girl who had failed to qualify at the GCE A/L examination for higher education had been admitted to a state university on the basis of a letter issued by MP Namal Rajapaksa. They were justified in letting out a howl of protest.
There is no difference between admitting a student who fails to obtain enough marks at the GCE A/L to a national university and appointing to the national legislature via the NL a candidate who loses an election. Therefore, anyone who claims to be a proponent of good governance cannot endorse the appointment of political rejects to Parliament through the backdoor.