We representatives of the Muslim civil organizations, namely the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League Youth Fronts (ACUMLYF), National Shoora Council (NSC), the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), and the Kandy Forum, on behalf of the Muslim Community of Sri Lanka, after studying the draft cabinet paper on the proposed 20th Amendment called the “Electoral Reforms Bill”, wish to submit the following:
At the very inception, we strongly emphasise that we fully support the electoral reforms which inter alia, aims at the elimination of ill practices and corruption that we have experienced for over two decades.
It is imperative that both the government and the national political parties recognize the pluralistic nature of our society and the pattern of population distribution of the minority ethnic communities in Sri Lanka. We very much desire that the Sinhalese population must be duly represented and are equally concerned of adequate and equitable representation in Parliament for the Tamils, Muslims, including Malays and Burghers. Thus giving meaning in reality to the principles of inclusiveness and equality which the President, Prime Minister and the present government are advocating.
We note that the proposed Bill does not address the concerns in relation to adequate and equitable representation of the different ethnic communities scattered all over the country. The fact is that the numerical models and statistical samples being highlighted in this Bill have totally ignored the socio-cultural and ethnic reality on the ground. Thereby exposing vulnerable minority communities like the Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers etc. to under-representation, electoral inequities and even no representation.
We fear the proposed Bill would result in marginalizing the Muslims who lives in the South with the majority Sinhalese people and elsewhere in the country, over one thousand years of period.
Therefore, we suggest the following;
1. In general, based on the Census 2012 and the Voters’ Registry 2014 , the representation of the ethno-religious groups, under any reforms, should approximately be as follows;
2. We are concerned that, if the proposed mixed-system is implemented in a hurry, it would be an undemocratic practice resulting in serious anomalies. It will lead to a reduction in the representation of the numerically less communities, mainly the Muslims by around 50% or more. An in-depth analysis done by us reveals that under the proposed 20th Amendment, the maximum representation for the Muslims would be only 14 or 15 elected members against the total number of 255, as follows:
o FPP (165 seats) – 08-09 seats
o Over Hanging (20-22 seats) – Zero possibility
o District PR (25-30 Seats) – 02 or 03 seats
o The best loser/the highest percentage(10-12 seats) – Zero possibility
o National PR (20-22 seats) – 02 seats
Although ‘as the Muslims of Sri Lanka’ we are not willing to be carved out from other communities, but the Bill requires us to suggest a minimum of 09 multi member constituencies for Muslims be demarcated for Colombo (02), Kandy (02), Kalutara (01), Vanni (01), Galle (01), Kegalle (01), and Batticaloa (01) districts.
And also 06 Electorates be demarcated as single member constituency with majority of Muslims namely, Kalmunai, Sammanthurai, and Potuvil in Ampara district, Mutur in Trincomalee district, Puttalam in Puttalam district, and Kalkudhah in Batticaloa district, to get the due representation for the Muslims around 20-25 Members in the Parliament.
3. Due representation should be ensured by allocating one seat from the Provincial PR for the provincial minority ethnic groups that have a population of over 70,000, but have failed to secure even a single representation in the province. This would be fair, just and reasonable for the marginalized provincial minorities, namely the Sinhalese in the North and East; the Tamils and the Muslims in the South.
20A: Suggestion of the Muslim Civil Organisations (ACUMLYF/NSC/MCSL/KF…) – 18th May 2015 pg. 3
4. A special provision should be inserted in the Proposed Bill to urge the main national parties to give top priority to the minority group representative from the District PR List, who failed to secure a single representation in the District though they have the qualifying amount of voters.
5. In appointing the Delimitation Commission following should be considered;
a. It should consist of members representing all communities, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims in the main panel as well as in the administrative structure (Secretary / Deputy Secretary / Asst. Secretary/other staff).
b. It should act, based on the Census 2012 and Electoral Registers 2015 (to be completed by Nov. 2015), which could enable the IDPs to sort-out their issues in voters registration.
6. In view of the current controversy relating to the Wilpattu National Park, we suggest that protected areas such as the Strict Nature Reserves, Nature Reserves and the National Parks be excluded from demarcating the proposed ‘Electoral Divisions’ while they remain as part of the administrative districts, to minimize the political intervention on irreparable environmental degradation.
7. Minimum 1 or 02 seats should be allocated for the members of the minor ethnic groups who were unable to secure a single representation, at the national level. The Malays who are a distinct ethnic group having a language of their own and had been represented in the Parliament before also be accommodated.
8. The 20th Amendment should include specific criteria and general code of ethics for the candidates to abide by during the election campaign (e.g. ceiling on expenditure for the campaign, accountability, etc.).