October 9, 2018 (LBO) – After hearing about a women’s business forum, and reading a joke on twitter about how the panel addressing the crowd was all men, thoughts came to mind of how these types of events could be more meaningful. What can they really accomplish to bridge the divide of opportunity that exists in a sexist society?
My mind went to all the accomplished women I have met in Sri Lanka. Highly educated and accomplished in all fields locally and abroad. There are countless examples of brilliance among Sri Lankan women. I will not even mention names as the list is too long and anyone could identify several.
I knew there were few women in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. I have heard many excuses for this, which I will save for another article. When looking at the composition of Parliament, one thing came out and slapped me in the face. The National List is perhaps the biggest insult to sexual equality in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
National List members of Parliament make up 29 out of the 225 members of the legislature. One of the purposes of the list was to introduce professionals into the legislature who may have been put off by the undesirable elements that prevail in Sri Lankan politics, such as: violence, intimidation, corruption etc.
Who gets into Parliament from the national list is more or less dictated by party leaders. These leaders are allotted seats based on the proportion of votes their parties received in the general election. The party leaders who decided who got into parliament after the last general election, and the percentage of women they chose were:
Ranil Wickremesinghe UNP – 13 seats ( 8% female)
Maithripala Sirisena UPFA – 12 seats (0% female)
R. Sampanthan TNA – 2 seats (50% female)
Anura Dissanayake JVP – 2 seats (0% female)
Total National List MPs- 29
Female National List MP’s – 2 (7%)
These numbers are shocking, especially when these MPs are primarily chosen by party leaders who aim to run for the Presidency. These potential presidential candidates are running in an election where the majority of the eligible voting population are women. Who is to blame for this National List debacle? Maybe Ranil? Maithripala? or even women’s groups themselves?
Why haven’t women’s groups demanded from these two individuals appropriate representation on the national list? It seems like if there was a place to start putting Sri Lanka’s top women in the legislature, it could start with the national list. If there is enough agitation, the party leaders will have to respond, simply because they need your votes.
The National List is currently made up of several members whose resumes leave a lot to be desired. I doubt it would be hard to find an infinite supply of women who are more qualified than many of the list’s existing members.