The new government’s decision to halt crossovers in Parliament could be described as the wisest decision in the recent history of democracy in the country. It is reported that the constitutional reforms to come before Parliament would disqualify MPs who cross over. Crossing over is cheating. Parliament was like a pond infested with frogs during monsoon rains in the past two decades. The incidence of crossovers was very high over the past two decades. The pole-vaulters jumped for gains like ministerial position and some for ‘big cash’ it was reported.
Jumping sides in Parliament was apparently taken for granted and turncoats went great guns. It was considered as a lucrative business in parliamentary politics during the past two decades. Political party leaders who were in power too are to be blamed for having encouraged such dirty games. They did so to hold onto power at crisis times. Voters viewed it as a terminal illness in politics that could not be cured. With a general election on cards in mid this year, the political future of many pole-vaulters over the past few months hangs in the balance as voters had lost confidence in them.
The government’s decision to halt crossovers in the future will also eliminate political trading by political parties representing Parliament. Such political trading in real terms is nothing but financial corruption at the expense of State coffers as millions are offered to cross over. That’s all public money.
The country plunged to lowest depths in politics as the crossover menace continued unabated in the recent past. Politicians are a breed who does not uphold moral rights to advocate good governance. The ugly developments of the past do not permit the citizenry to place trust on what politicians preach. Crossing sides mean the distortion of the people’s choice and verdict of the voters at elections. Those whom the voters wanted to be in the Opposition were in government due to the cross over menace. President Sirisena’s decision to prevent crossovers in the future will also prevent MPs from taking their political parties for a right royal ride.
The reforms that are to be introduced will certainly stabilize the democratic and parliamentary system of governance in the country. Limiting the terms in office of the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers is a most welcome feature while reducing the life of a Parliament to five years. Those reforms should also scrap the provision to extend the life of a Parliament through a Referendum. Because the voters elect their representatives for a particular term and if the life of that Parliament is extended by a Referendum it would tantamount to a violation of the voting rights of the citizens. We have witnessed how the terms of Parliament were extended in 1975 and 1982 by Sirima Bandaranaike and J.R. Jayewardene respectively. When Ms. Bandaranaike extended the life of parliament by a further two years, Jayewardene called it an undemocratic act and took to streets. But he did the same holding a Referendum in 1982 to retain his five sixth majority in Parliament.
Those were ugly experiences the people faced in this country due to power hungry politicians who wanted to stay in power. Crossovers were also a common feature in those parliaments. In the Jayewardene regime, he introduced a bill to entertain crossovers from the Opposition to the government barring crossovers from his government to the Opposition. The first Opposition MP to cross over was Chelliah Rajadurai from the TULF and he was offered the portfolio of Minister of Regional Development. The life of that Bill was confined only to that Parliament. Those were shrewd tactics of Jayewardene to retain power.
The initial step to eliminate crossovers in Parliament through the proposed reforms will certainly build confidence in the minds of the voters and the people and will also educate elected members on the need to uphold and protect the rights of the voters.