SRI LANKA PARLIAMENT TODAY:
The Parliament of Sri Lanka is the highest law making authority in the country and its members are elected by the people of Sri Lanka.
The Parliament of Sri Lanka is the 225-member unicameral legislature of Sri Lanka. The members of Parliament are elected by proportional representation for five-year terms, with universal suffrage. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. It is modelled after the British Parliament.
The Speaker or, in his absence the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees or the Deputy Chairman of Committees, presides over Parliament.
Of the 225 members, 196 are elected from 22 electoral districts, which are multi-member. The remaining 29 MPs are nominated /appointed from National Lists allocated to the parties (and independent groups) in proportion to their share of the national vote
On 20 August 2015, two major parties United National Party and Sri Lanka Freedom Party signed Memorandum of Understanding to form the National Government in order to address major unresolved issue after the end of 30-year plus old conflict.
This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s political history that two major parties agreed to work in the joint government. The Presidential Secretariat announced that the Government will be functioning as joint national unity government comprising two major parties. United National Party leader who won the most seats was appointed Prime Minister
The Electoral System in Sri Lanka
The 1978 Constitution introduced a radical departure to the previously existing electoral system and electoral districts. The previous system was based on constituencies with individual candidates nominated by recognized political parties or independent candidates. The candidate obtaining the highest number of votes in respect of the constituency was declared elected. This system, commonly described as the First-past-the-post (FPP) system, was changed in to a system of Proportional Representation in respect of 22 electoral districts.
The apportionment of the number of members to be returned from each electoral district is made by the Commissioner of Elections in terms of Article 98 (8) of the Constitution. In all, 196 Members of Parliament are returned on the basis of the voting in the respective electoral districts. The 15 th Amendment to the Constitution introduced Article 99A, which provides for 29 members to be declared elected on the basis of the total number of votes polled by the respective political parties or independent groups at the national level (the National List). Thus, we have a proportional system at the district level and a proportional system at the national level based on the same poll.
Proportional System at District Level
In terms of section 99 (6) (a) of the Constitution, a recognized political party or independent group polling less than 1/20 th (5%) of the total votes polled within the district is disqualified and the balance valid votes are reckoned for allocation of seats on the basis of the proportional computation.
In each district, the political party or independent group securing the highest number of votes is entitled to have one member declared elected (the Bonus seat). The balance number of Members is declared elected on the basis of the proportion of votes obtained by the political party or the independent group.
Allocation of Members From Each Political Party or Independent Group
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution introduced a system of preferential voting on the basis of which, the particular candidates to be returned from within each political party or independent group is determined. Each voter is entitled to indicate his\her preference within the list of candidates of the political party or group to which the vote is cast. Three such preferences could be indicated on the basis of the number assigned to a particular candidate after the nomination paper is accepted by the Returning Officer. The counting of preference votes takes place at the second stage of the counting process in order to determine the particular candidates who would be declared elected from within each political party or independent group.
Before the colonial period, Sri Lanka was a Monarchy. Thereafter administrative and governmental reforms were introduced under the Portuguese, Dutch and British rulers. Firstly the maritime Dutch territories and subsequently the Kandyan Kingdom came under the British rule in 1815. According to the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron commission, the Executive Council and the Legislative Council- the first legislative bodies of colonial Ceylon – were set up by the Governor, Sir Robert Horton, in 1833.
The Executive Council and the Legislative Council met in the building opposite the picturesque Gorden Gardens, now occupied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, until it was shifted to the old Parliamentary Building fronting the ocean at Galle Face. This building was declared open on January 29, 1930 by the then Governor Sir Herbert Stanley and housed the legislature till it was shifted to the new Parliamentary Complex at Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte in April 1982.
The Westminster model was introduced by the Soulbury Commission in 1944. The Parliament consisted of the Queen (represented by the Governor – General) and two Houses, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives consisted of 101 Members and the Senate consisted of 30 Members, of whom 15 were elected by the House of Representatives and 15 nominated by the Governor – General. The Senate was abolished on 2nd October 1971.
The Senate was abolished on 2nd October 1971. Consequent to constitutional reforms, the name of the legislature changed several times as follows:
- The Legislative Council 1833-1931 – (49 Members)
- The State Council 1931-1947 – (61 Members)
- The House of Representatives 1947 – 1972 – (101 Members and 157 Members after 1960)
- The National State Assembly 1972 – 1978 – (168 Members)
- The Parliament 1978 – to date – (225 Members)
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