Change needed to clean up the Sri Lankan Parliament

Quality of thinking of voters will determine the quality of representatives elected!

Sri Lankan parliament needs to have a collection of quality representatives of all political parties, inclusive of national list members. The National list to be made up of top quality non politicized professionals of critical sectors to share with the ordinary members correct information to enable them to collectively be more productive.

It would then provide Sri Lanka the opportunity to change the political culture in the country with President, capable of accomplishing this much needed change.

Earlier, with the present Republican Constitution, the National List system came into play to enrich the legislature. A provision intended to bring into parliament high caliber candidates whom the electorates will not otherwise send in absolute ignorance.

Unfortunately, almost all the political parties have in the past misused this National List system to bring back defeated candidates to parliament. Whereas, they should have retained the original intentions to bring in high caliber members to the Parliament.

However, many high caliber members did enter the parliament as National List Members and served the country well. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) too appointed such National List members. Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran was one such National List member, who entered parliament following the parliamentary election in 2010.

It was a good choice, commonly known as M. A. Sumanthiran is one of Sri Lanka’s top human rights and constitutional lawyers; received an LLM degree in internet and electronic law from Monash University  was made a President’s Counsel in 2017.

Sumanthiran while practising law was appearing in civil litigation cases and in a number of fundamental rights cases; judicial reviews of parliamentary legislation and executive action. He prevented forced expulsion of Tamils from Colombo and had successfully challenged an anti-conversion bill which the courts struck down as being unconstitutional.

Sumanthiran appeared for petitioners against the proposed 18th and 19th amendments to the constitution which were found to be unconstitutional and required 2/3rd majority in Parliament and a referendum.

Sumanthiran worked on a number of public interest cases including the ongoing attempt by residents of the Valikamam North High Security Zone to get their land back from the Sri Lankan military. His human rights work has led to him being threatened, harassed and branded “traitors in black coats” by the Sri Lankan military.

In May 2012, Sumanthiran was elected Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi’s (ITAK) Secretary for Foreign and Legal Affairs and became one of ITAK’s two Assistant Secretaries in September 2014. Whereas TNA should have retained Sumanthiran as its National List MP.

Instead he was made as one of the TNA’s candidates in Jaffna District at the 2015 parliamentary election was elected and re-entered Parliament. Once again his name is included as the No.1 candidate for TNA contesting the 2020 General Election.

After the 2015 General Election many defeated candidates were appointed through the National List as Members of Parliament. It included two TNA MPs, that created uproar in the social media. Today this currupt process needs change for proper use of the National List system as originally designed.