By Shamindra Ferdinando
“Decision in line with recommendations by JRJ’s Delimitation Committee’
Polls Chief Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday defended his decision to reduce the number of elected members allocated to the Jaffna electoral district in line with the latest electoral register.
Deshapriya emphasised that the reduction of elected MPs from 9 to 6 had been effected in keeping with the recommendation of a three-member Delimitation Committee appointed in 1979 by the then President J. R. Jayewardene.
The Polls Chief’s decision has been met with criticism from the TNA, TULFand the JVP.
The JVP says the reduction will adversely affect the on-going attempts at national reconciliation and be detrimental to the interests of the Tamil community.
Responding to a query, Deshapriya said that he shouldn’t be held responsible for implementing provisions relating to appointment of 225 members to Parliament, including the National List comprising 29 members.
Explaining the basis for change of electoral representation, Deshapriya said that at the beginning Jaffna electoral district had been represented by 11 members. Subsequently, the number of MPs had been changed several times over the years on the basis of electoral lists. The latest revision had brought the number down to 6.
The Polls Chief said he had no alternative but to reduce the number of elected MPs from Jaffna due to a sharp decrease in the number of voters.
Deshapriya said: “It would be unfair to blame me for implementing the law. What we have to keep in mind is that irrespective of who heads the Election Secretariat, district representation will have to be altered depending on latest electoral register. At the beginning Colombo was represented by 21 MPs and Gampaha 17 members. Today Colombo is represented by 19 members and Gampaha by 18.”
Asked whether the on-going countrywide census could help revise the allocation of elected MPs, Deshapriya said that the Election Secretariat would go by the electoral register. He revealed that Jaffna-based Assistant Elections Commissioner P. Kuganathan had deleted his own sister from the Jaffna electoral list as she was a German passport holder.