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The importance of recent legislation to change the electoral system for local government elections was such that it clearly made sense on all sides to refrain from trying to improve the content of the Bill, but instead to concentrate on making it law. The government has after all agreed to further amendments by mutual consent later on, including increasing the proportion of those to be elected on a list basis to 40%.

I was told that one reason for not introducing that amendment at the Committee stage was that the Legal Draughtsman’s Department had said that would be difficult. I am not sure if this was correct, but if so it indicates how useless that Department has become. It was because of flaws in the draft last year that consideration of the Bill was postponed, and I very much feared then that opponents of the changes would prevail and prevent the Bill being brought forward again.

After all, though the whole country wanted change in the perverse system of preferences that J R Jayewardene introduced, the only people who had benefited from it, namely legislators elected under that system, were those who had to make the changes, and one cannot expect modern day turkeys, unlike those in the 1977 Parliament who allowed Jayewardene to destroy the power of Parliament, to vote for Christmas.

The Bill as it stands makes clear the continuing detachment from reality of the Draughtsman’s Department – a factor that I think is understood by the new Legal Draughtsman, who saw immediately the absurdity of current practice, though I gather she will not be at the helm long enough to ensure change.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

February 2013
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