Plus - Letter to the editor

Let’s follow UK example in choosing our party leaders

Since Independence, visionary leaders in our mainstream political parties have been sadly lacking. This has affected the growth and image of the nation, while other nations in the region have progressed.
The need of the hour is to have bold policy innovations that will produce honest, patriotic and magnanimous leaders. It is futile to blame the people for the presence of fraudsters and anti-social elements in positions of power.

On paper, Sri Lanka is a democracy. Yet when a party leader is picked, none of the political parties, including the JVP, follows a transparent democratic election process. This is the right time for someone to correct that.

The UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has admitted that he is not a dynamic leader, is the most fitting person to set an example, as he has nothing to lose.

There is a lot to be learnt from leading democracies. In Britain, considered the “mother of all democracies”, the selection process for a party leader is fully transparent and democratic. Any elected member who believes he has the qualities, including vision and character, to command a particular party, may enter the fray.

For example, in the Conservative Party, the process for choosing a new leader is initiated when the incumbent leader resigns or when a vote of no confidence in the current leader is tabled. The no-confidence process is initiated when 15 per cent of the Parliamentary Party writes to the chairman of the party. If the vote of no confidence is upheld, a leadership election is called and the incumbent is barred from standing in it.

If only one candidate stands, then he is elected as the leader, uncontested. If more than two candidates stand, then the MPs first hold a series of ballots to reduce the number to two. On each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

Candidates may also withdraw between rounds. The series of ballots by MPs continues until only two candidates remain. At this point, the all-member ballot begins. This goes on for some weeks. To be eligible to vote, an individual should have been a paid-up member of the party for at least three months. The candidate who tops the poll is declared the leader.

It is an excellent process, and allows only the most fitting person to become the party leader. That is how the young and dynamic David Cameron became the leader, eliminating such senior party leaders as Kenneth Clarke and David Davis.

Ranil is the most fitting person to initiate action in the right direction and encourage other parties to follow his example.

The leadership election process may also allow other patriotic leaders who had hitherto declined to enter mainstream politics to stand. Thus the most fitting person becomes the party leader, and he is remembered for his part in the process of installing true democracy in Sri Lanka party politics.

Nagananda Kodituwakku, London

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