I am pleased to be part of the March 12 movement that is committed to propagate different views, concepts, etc. derived through freedom movements for world democracy and freedom, in an age where struggles are happening to attain freedom, human rights and fundamental rights, and where some of them have already won.
I would extend my gratitude to Rohana Hettiarachchi and the fellows who give the leadership to the movement. Political rallies are not the only spaces to debate over the electoral process, democracy and freedom. It is happy to see that the dialogues that have been initiated by the government and non-governmental organizations, media outlets, etc have been gathering momentum during the past few decades.
Sri Lanka is a country which gained universal franchise in 1931. Hence, 1931 can be considered as a historical year. Since then, independence from British rule in 1948, first parliamentary election in 1947, the state councils before the parliamentary election stand as a tantamount to expansion political sphere of the country. The people of the country enjoy a complete array of democratic rights as a result of this historical development. All of you have an idea about the constitution which was in effect from 1947 to 1972. 1972 constitution was another chapter of the history. 1978 constitution also paved a way to a new era. Our country has been witnessing expansion of freedom and democracy over the time gradually with the introduction of new constitutions, fulfilling expectations of the general public.
It is needless to say that one of most important incidents of the history of constitutions of the country is 19th amendment to the 1978 constitution which was done in 2015. The amendment caused reestablishment of democracy and the formation of independent commissions in the country. Not only people of the country but also the international community has highly commended the legislative provisions ensured by the amendment to consolidate freedom and democracy of the people.
Focusing on the 19th amendment to the constitution we need to recall the 18th amendment to the constitution as well. We had to pass the 19th amendment due to autocratic system created by the 18th amendment to the constitution.
The 18th amendment to the constitution had paved the way to make the governing system a monarchy. Under the 18th amendment, it was the sole power of the President to appoint the Chief Justice, Attorney General, Inspector General of Police, commissions, and making appointments to institutions that were supposed to be impartial and independent. Such moves resulted restriction of freedom and democracy of the people and losing faith of them towards impartiality, independence and free elections. Hence, the people were demanding for their rights and 19th amendment was resulted eventually. The 19th amendment can be branded as the inception of a transformation in the country. I consider the new local government electoral system, which is much anticipated outcome, is a victory of the people of the country. The preferential voting system implemented under 1978 constitution created a political culture where individuals came to the fore and policies and philosophies of the political parties were sidelined. This situation also created chaotic atmosphere in the society.
Our political culture dealt with a severe blow due to the preferential voting system. Public expectations, faith and esteem on the politicians started to deteriorated with the preferential voting system. A strong public opinion was formed to change the electoral system and hold elections of parliamentary, provincial councils and Pradeshiya Sabha under the first past the post method. A firm belief was in the society to hold the local government under the first past the post method to have a parliamentarian responsible for their respective areas. Though the new electoral system for the local government bodies was setup, the committee appointed by the commission for delimitation process did not fulfill their duty. Hence, still we have to encounter challenges.
The local government elections were postponed as delimitation process was not impartial and independent. As a newly appointed government we embarked to carry out the delimitation process, considering the situation. There are various suggestions and criticisms over the reports of the committee. I believe this would be a good moment to initiate changes in the society though there are criticisms. I believe that local government elections can be held this year implementing the new electoral system. The new electoral system will be helpful to create a public representative who is responsible their respective areas and candidates will be able to stick to policies and plans of the political parties while sidelining preferential voting system.
I appreciate the commitment taken by the March 12 movement for taking measures to educate government and non-governmental sectors as well as all other stakeholders about this. I like to express that new electoral system is highly opportune and it is breakthrough ensuring basic rights, freedom and democracy. I request all of you to be committed on the noble norms that were promoted by the March 12 movement; particularly freedom and democracy.