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A (not so) revolutionary idea

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The writer wishes all parliamentarians to be elected by the people The writer wishes all parliamentarians to be elected by the people

With thoughts of constitutional reform in the air and on everyone’s lips, I wondered why more people were not talking of another failed Amendment: the 13th. All these tags and triggers – federalism, regional autonomy, unitary status, separatism, consociational democracy, homeland theory, devolution of power, etc., seem have to have evaded our attention and slipped from the national consciousness. We need to revisit them. Once self-evident truths – the Tigers cannot be defeated; the elections will always be won by a powerful incumbent – have been overturned. Why not another one? The assertion that provincial devolution is the only way forward for Sri Lanka.

Some thoughts in the context of the upcoming 20th Amendment and discussion of electoral systems -
1) Increase a bicameral Parliament to 350-400 members with 300 in the lower house and 50-100 in a senate/ upper house. All Parliamentarians to be directly elected by the people.

2) Elections to the lower house (MPs) will be on an adapted German system of mixed territorial constituencies (200) and PR (100) to correct imbalances in representation. Election to the Senate/Upper House will be on the basis of 2-4 per district.

3) Abolish the provincial councils: The Indian-enforced PC system has proved a white elephant which neither serves the people nor justifies its continuation due to waste, corruption, and paucity of devolved powers. It’s difficult to repose faith in them as democratic institutions.

4) MPs and Senators representing a particular group of districts that form a region (may be a Province) will constitute a cross-party regional caucus. National legislation (including subsidiary legislation) will need a majority in the Houses of Parliament as well as approval of the regional caucus if it is to apply to a particular region (except with regard to a constitutionally pre-defined and strictly restricted number of exclusive national legislative competencies - that impact for e.g. on national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity or the national economy). For other laws on any subject, a 3/4 majority of both Houses in joint session can override a regional caucus' unreasonable refusal/rejection thereof.

5) A regional caucus will not exercise its own executive/legislative authority but will serve as a check on national legislation vis-à-vis its own region and provide a cohesive and coherent regional voice in Parliament. It may, however, initiate legislation for its region in Parliament which may be passed as normal law. Regional caucuses may convene in Kotte/Colombo or in their own regions. It can also provide supervisory/oversight functions in relation to government institutions in each region - reporting to Parliament/the executive on their performance.

6) A special constitutional court; its judges drawn from the ranks of the higher judiciary/superior courts will act as a dispute resolution mechanism and will resolve issues that arise from the adoption of this system. It will be an ad hoc court that sits to decide issues of constitutional importance. A regional caucus shall have standing and the right to petition and be heard before such court.

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