The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 10

By Maneshka Borham
D
espite not having set up an all party
committee on January 28 to present
proposals for electoral reforms as
promised in the 100-day program, on Thurs-
day (March 5) the government announced
that the next general elections would be held
under a new electoral system. According to
the 100-day program the government has
promised to replace the current preferential
voting system with a mixed electoral system
that ensures representation of individual
Members for Parliamentary Constituencies,
with mechanisms put in place to ensure
proportionality.
However, the switch from the preferential
voting system to a mixed system will possi-
bly make it difficult for minor political par-
ties to gain seats, especially those which lack
strongholds and rely on gathering dispersed
votes fromacross a local authority towin rep-
resentation. While some minority political
parties such as the Tamil National Alliance
(TNA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC)
or Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) will like-
ly continue to win seats in areas where they
dominate
these parties
but will also find it
difficult to gain parliamentary seats in areas
where the communities that they represent
are a minority.
The Janatha Vimukthi Permuna (JVP) in
particular could also lose representation as a
result of the switch in the system. But given
Sri Lanka’s experience of violent conflict,
it is vital to have political groups within the
system so that they are given a voice, rather
than outside the democratic and governance
structures.
While party representation was ensured
while compiling the Dinesh Gunawardena
Committee Report on Electoral Reform in
2003, it is doubtful if the government has wel-
comed any such discussions or proposals by
other parties as yet despite common belief
that these electoral reforms could be detri-
mental to minorities as well as minority par-
ties thereby affecting their bargaining power
in Parliament.
Not consulted – TNA
While speaking regarding the announce-
ment by the government, President of the
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Suresh
Premachandran voiced his displeasure that
minority parties have not been consulted
regarding the proposed electoral reforms. “I
have not heard anything from the govern-
ment,” he said adding that it is yet to be seen
if the government will reach out to minority
parties. According to him, if representation
of minorities is not ensured, the new system
will be detrimental to parties representing
such groups. “We will find it difficult to sup-
port and accept such a system,” he said.
“It is absurd and foolish to say that demar-
cation of land can be done through solely
aerial mapping, census data and technology
without the consultation of minority par-
ties,” Premachandran said adding that the
government should answer as to how such
a re-demarcation is to be done. According to
him, if the government attempts to re-demar-
cate as they wish without any consultation it
will prove problematic and a committee, as
proposed, must be appointed immediately.
No Issues - SLMC
Speaking to
The Nation
Sri Lanka Muslim
Congress (SLMC) Assistant general secre-
tary Nizam Kariapper confirmed that the
government is yet to ask the party’s response
for the suggested electoral reforms. However,
according to him, the party have no qualms
about the proposedmixed electoral system.
“If due representation of minor and mi-
nority parties are ensured we have no issues
with the said electoral reforms,” he said
adding that proportionality must be made
certain.
Country first – JHU
For the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) even
though the reforms could be detrimental ac-
cording to National Organizer of the party
Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe country must
come before one’s party. “This may be un-
desirable for minor parties but the country
must be thought of first,” he said speaking
to
The Nation
adding that therefore JHU sup-
ports the government’s move at their detri-
ment. According to him, if any party does not
support the move it will amount to turning
their backs on the people’s mandate.
According to him, the curbing of presiden-
tial powers also must be ensured along with
the new electoral system. “Reforming the
electoral system makes no sense if not,” he
said adding that however the JHU fully sup-
ports the proposedmixed system.
No draft – FLSP
The front line socialist party (FLSP) like
many other political parties agrees that the
current electoral system must be reformed.
“We agree it must be reformed and our MP
Ajith Kumara requested at parliament that a
draft be shown to minor parties,” said polit-
buromember of the party Pubudu Jayagoda,
however according to Jayagoda other parties
including the FLSP have no clear idea about
the new system. “It may be proportional or
ensure that onlymajor parties win,” he said.
According to Jayagoda, while reforms are
constantly debated no mention is made re-
garding enacting the legal barriers to ensure
candidateswith less financial capabilities are
also able to contest and given a fair chance.
“The current election system that favors
moneyed candidates must be changed,” he
said adding that democracy calls for giving a
voice to the minorities.
Amasquerade – JVP
While the JVPmight be another party that
is put in an unfavorable position by the new
reforms according to JVP Western Provin-
cial CouncilMemberH.DLalkantha, the JVP
is indifferent about the matter. When asked
if the government has asked for the party’s
stance, he said that it’s confusing as to who
or what consists of the term ‘government’ at
the moment. “We are not bothered no matter
what electoral system is used,” he said add-
ing that it is not the system that is plaguing
the political scene today. “This is a masquer-
ade by the government,” he said adding that
civil society groups must take note of this.
Lalkantha is of the opinion that it is only
through taking away of political privileges
that the politics of Sri Lanka can be cleaned
up rather than through reforming the elec-
toral system.
It is clear that many minor and minority
parties have much to say about the proposed
reforms and each has his own areas of focus.
While the proposed system, similar to Ger-
man system will overcome some of the key
drawbacksof theproportional representative
system, it will possibly affect the representa-
tion of the small parties. Therefore, while
the government can clearly get the reforms
passed without support of minority parties,
however it is their responsibility to make the
promised effort to engage such parties to en-
sure positive implications for democracy and
better governance in Sri Lanka.
1989 Sri Lankan
parliamentary
election
1977 Sri Lankan
parliamentary
election
225
Seats
Seats
168
UNP:
140
TULF:
18
SLFP:
8
CWC:
1
Others:
1
1977 - Last election held under the First past the post
voting system
1988 - First Election under the preferential voting system
* General elections due to be held in 1983 was cancelled by a
referendum in 1982. Government is now purposing a mix of
both systems
Source : Department of Elections
UNP:
125
SLFP:
67
EROS:
13
TULF:
10
SLMC:
4
USA:
3
MEP: 3
Graphics by Pushpika Karunaratne
10
Sunday, March 8, 2015
exposÈ
Constitutional reforms
under scrutiny
By Kishani Samaraweera
Floating armory discovered in the Galle
Harbormade headlines since several allega-
tions were made regarding its legality. How-
ever, Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiri-
ella cleared the air stating that setting up
of the companies, Rakna Lanka and Avant
Garde Maritime Services and also that the
recruitment of personnel and the payment
of taxes and other dues had been done prop-
erly and therefore there is no issue as to the
legality of the whole operation.
MP Kiriella further elaborating on the
matter has stated permission has been
given by the Ministry of Defence to Rakna
Arakshaka Lanka to deploy sea marshals
and also recruited retired military officers
due to increase of the threat of sea pirates.
He mentioned that deploying of sea mar-
shals has been done in accordance with the
provisions and standards as required by the
International Maritime Organization of the
UN in the Circular MSC1/Circ/1443.
Floating armories are known as a kind of
a vessel used to storeweapons, ammunition,
and related equipment such as body armor
and night vision goggles for use by Private
Maritime Security Companies (PMSC).
They are not purposely built, but alter have
been converted and retrofitted.
Avant Garde
Avant Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd
is a subsidiary of Avant Garde Security
Services (Pvt) Ltd, and incorporated on the
June 24, 2011 under the Companies Act (ref-
erence: No.7 of 2007) of Sri Lanka. Avant
Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd entered
into a joint venture with Government
Owned Business Undertaking (GOBU) of
Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd (RALL) of Sri
Lanka to provide infrastructure facilities
for international maritime security ser-
vices.
It has over 6,500 personnel and also has
a perfect record of over 17 years providing
land based security to many organizations
including key blue chip companies, most of
the banks and financial institutions, includ-
ing Central Bank of Sri Lanka. They pro-
vide full range of total risk mitigation so-
lutions to the global maritime industry and
the company is also involved in providing
total logistical assistance to vessels transit-
ing the Indian Ocean.
Chairman of Avant Garde Security Ser-
vices, Major Nissanka Senadhipathi talking
to the media has told that the arms belong
to about 270 foreign maritime security com-
panies which provide invaluable services
to protect commercial ships against Somali
piracy. He has also mentioned that the com-
panies provide ship protection and also to
keep their weapons with them when not in
use.Maritime security guards embark ships
requiring protection against sea piracy.
Senadhipathi has further explained that
according to Law of the Sea, protection to
commercial ships can only be provided by
private contractors and therefore no naval
or any other state military are allowed on
commercial ships. He has reiterated the fact
that the floating armory is legal and that he
will prove with evidence that it is hundred
percent legal.
International Code of Conduct for Private
Security Services Avant Garde Maritime
Services Private Limited has been listed
and registered as a private security service
in the International code of conduct for
Private Security Services Signatory Com-
panies.
Private security service
“Avant Garde Maritime Services Pvt Ltd
is a limited liability Company, established
in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka, registered on the June 24, 2011 under
the Companies act Number 07 of 2007. The
Company is fully authorized by the Ministry
of Defence of Sri Lanka to supply Sea Mar-
shals andweapons to anykind of vessels that
seek security and protection during their
voyages to any destination in the World. So
far we have handled 120 commercial vessels.
AGMS is also authorized to deploy its own
armed Sea Marshals on board the fishing
trawlers that are engaged in deep sea fishing
in the Indian Ocean. At the moment we have
altogether 131 fishing trawlers in the Indian
Oceanwith 400 SeaMarshals engaged in ves-
sel protection duties.”
The Police detained a ship carrying 12
container loads of weapons at the Galle har-
bor named “‘MVMahanuwara’. Later it was
revealed that it was a floating armory oper-
ated by Avant-Garde Maritime Services and
Rakna Lanka has granted Avant-Garde the
contract which was operating under the De-
fence Ministry.
Also on January 20 armory with illegal
fire arms were found in the BMICHpremises
by the Police. The premises was investigated
and sealed upon receiving a complaint by
the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Liyana-
gamage Dayaratne alleging that the store
consists of illegal weapons which belongs to
a private security company.
Police Media Spokesperson SSP Ajith
Rohana stated that the case of the floating
armory is one of the most complex cases
they have ever investigated. He said that the
Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
has looked in to two major elements during
the investigation. The investigations were
conducted by focusing mainly on the issues
like can a floating armory be maintained
and can arms which are only used for be
given to a private sector security company,
whether the Ministry of Defence can main-
tain such a floating armory and the legality
of such an operation and also whether gov-
ernment owned arms given to such private
companies.
Illegal firearms
The ship was then put under the cus-
tody of the harbor master as ordered by
the courts. The investigations will also be
focusing on the nature of the arms and
whether the former Secretary to Ministry
of Defence has the power to hand over gov-
ernment arms.
The Inspector General of Police N.K. Il-
lankoon (IGP) on February 28 said the in-
vestigations of the Avant Garde floating ar-
mory have almost reached a conclusion and
the advice of the Attorney General would
be sought to take the necessary follow-up
steps.
“We have concluded recording state-
ments from the former Defence Secretary
and we will seek the Attorney General’s ad-
vice to take legal action against person re-
sponsible,” Illankoon added.Police Spokes-
person expressing the progress of the case
asserted, “Almost eighty percent of the case
has been completed and the extract of the
investigation has been sent to the Attorney
General Department and we expect a quick
response from them to take a legal action.”
Police Media Spokesperson also men-
tioned that they have recorded statements
of 60 people regarding the case. However,
when
the Nation
contacted Rakna Lanka,
they refused to comment on the issue.
Legality
The lack of national and international
standards governing these armories is an is-
sue and it is also believed that if they were
land based armories they should be much
more tightly controlled.
The floating armories are in an area of
the world with several armed conflicts, hav-
ing large numbers of arms in the regions
has the potential to be destabilizing. The
armories need to be properly regulated with
good record keeping to ensure that there is
no diversion of weapons and the weapons
need to be properly secured. We believe the
best way to do this is through international
standards.
Convener of the Voice Against Corrup-
tion, Wasantha Samarasinghe alleged that
maintain a floating armory is against na-
tional as well as international agreements.
He also stressed that this is a clear case of
abuse of state power and he reiterated that
legal action should be taken for the respon-
sible people including the former Defence
Secretary.
“People who are behind this particular is-
sue are the same persons who were involved
in other large scale financial frauds and also
who abused power vested in them,” he said.
National threat
With the discovery of the floating armory
concerns have been expressed that won’t
such entity be a national threat to the coun-
try, However when
the Nation
contacted the
Police Spokesperson regarding the issue he
mentioned that he cannot comment on that
since he is not authorized to do so and only
the Attorney General can comment on the
said matter.
Convener
of
the
Voice
Against
Corruption,Wasantha Samarasinghe stress-
ing on the issue mentioned that this type of
floating armories are, in fact, a serious threat
to the national security of a country.
“This is a serious issue which needs an im-
mediate solution. Arms which belong to the
government have beengiven to a private secu-
rity firm, how the government can keepmum
on such a serious matter which involves the
national security?” he questioned.
Samarasinghe also said that they have in-
formation that there are several other ware-
houses in which armory are stocked operat-
ing illegally. Concerns have been expressed
about the lack of transparency, regulation
and oversight of floating armories.
Controversy over floating armories
GALLE
Sri lanka
MUSCAT/ FUJAIRAH
Oman/ UAE
SEYCHELLES
Republic of Seychelles
MAURITIUS
Republic of Mauritius
ZANZIBAR
Zanzibar
PORT SUEZ
Egypt
RED SEA
DJIBOUTI
Republic of Djibouti
MOMBASA
Kenya
DAR ES SALAAM
Tanzania
Locations of armoury and storage facility
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-9 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20-21,...76
Powered by FlippingBook