COLOMBO: Indian Origin Tamils (IOT), who account for 1.5 million in the total Sri Lankan population of 20 million, have welcomed the Lankan cabinet's latest decision on electoral reforms.
"It is a victory for the combined efforts of the parties of the IOT and the Muslims, and also small parties representing the Sinhalese, " said Mano Ganeshan,IOT leader and head of the Democratic Peoples' Front (DPF).
The Lankan cabinet on Friday decided that the total number of seats in parliament should be raised from 225 to 237.Out of the 237, 145 should be filled through the First Past the Post (FPP) system; 55 through the Proportionate Representation (PR) system; and 37 should be filled by nomination by the various political parties represented in parliament.
The FPP system will apply to electoral constituencies as in India.The PR System will apply to district-wise electorates.Seats filled by nominations will be distributed among political parties according to the number of seats they get through the FPP and PR systems.
Friday's decision is favorable to the IOT,the Muslims and the small parties because the number of seats in parliament has been increased.And the cabinet has decided to ask the Election Commission to delimit constiuencies in such a way that the minorities can get their candidates through to parliament.The cabinet however rejected the minorities' demand for multi-member constituencies.
The cabinet's decision will now be put to parliament and efforts will be made to pass the reforms in the form of the 20th. Constitutional Amendment.
But it could run into rough weather if the opposition United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and its chief constituent,Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP),oppose it.The UPFA and SLFP enjoy majority in parliament.
While sections of the UPFA are under the influence of former President Mahinda Rajapskda who wants to topple the government, the SLFP had asked for 165 seats to be filled through the FPP system but the cabinet has decided to keep it at 145.
However, the titular leader of both the UPFA and the SLFP is President Maithripala Sirisena. And he is committed to supporting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet. The onus of getting the support of the UPFA and the SLFP is on Sirisena.