The Sunday Leader

Can More Women Politicos Improve Governance?

  • PC wars then and now

by Gamini Weerakoon

Women being granted 25 per cent representation in provincial councils without being voted in, we thought would be a cause for celebrations, at least in a feminine way. Generally, when they win a skirmish in the Battle of the Sexes they don’t dance on the streets after wetting their throats with the stuff that cheers. They read long and boring papers at seminars, workshops or write equally unreadable articles to the papers claiming a ‘historic achievement in the march for equality’ has been accomplished etc., etc.

However, we failed to notice any such jubilation or historic claims being made. Maybe the Parliamentary coup d’état staged by the smuggling in of an entirely different act – as the Opposition alleges - as amendments to Provincial Councils Amendment Bill, which granted their broader representation in Provincial Councils, may have taken the wind off the sails of the feminists.

Lining up to cast their votes…

A student of Sri Lankan politics specializing in Women’s politics however tells us that it is not all that simple. Provincial Council politics is justly regarded as Second XI Politics in this country being rowdier, dirtier and more important- less rewarding than Sri Lanka’s political First XI league.


Leave it to hubby

Why go through all the mudslinging, insults, accusations, etc. when your hubby, brothers or in-laws are there to do the dirty work and bring home the bacon – rather broiler chicken home?

Before we proceed any further we want to assure our readers that we are by no means belittling our womenfolk who are the backbone of our economy. They keep the tea, rubber and garment industries going while they slave in the Middle East and build up our foreign exchange reserves for import of duty-free cars and Scotch. But the placid manner in which this so called bonanza of automatic women representation has been received by womenfolk who have been for years demanding increased political representation, intrigues us.


What do women want?

The lukewarm attitude of women towards this bonanza of 25 per cent of seats in provincial councils begs the question which men have been asking down the years: What does a woman want? Sigmund Freud, the founder psychiatry is quoted on the subject: ‘The great question has never been answered, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul’.

Sri Lankans in the quest for this elusive answer may find themselves up against the same wall as Freud. But we have to find an answer to the political desires of our women. Our betting is that if it comes to a 25 per cent women quota to Parliament, there will be a tsunami.

Of course there can be no objection even to reservation of quotas for women anywhere provided they are elected by the people. If as is stated in the Bill, it will be mandatory for each party contesting an election to submit a list of women candidates to the Elections Commissioner and women representatives will be chosen from such lists in proportion to the total votes polled by the respective parties while seats will be allocated according to the their lists as decided by the party. This could leave room for some of hanky-panky and the best of women candidates may not be elected. Voters will not be electing the women and it will be the party leaders and their henchmen.

If traditional practices of selection to political offices are followed, quite a proportion of elected representatives in the women’s quota could be wives, daughters, in-laws of party leaders or those near and dear to political henchmen. Such disasters need not necessarily happen but this is a time when defeated candidates are elected on the National List and hold important cabinet portfolios!


Costs of Gender Balance

What voters have to bear in mind are the costs of Gender Balance in legislatures and other political high jinks and whether they lead to better governance. Unless dedicated and committed women politicians are brought in, this will be a futile exercise performed in accordance with the political thinking of the West.

Gender balance has been the craze in Western political thinking for years even though there has been no tangible improvement by having more women in legislatures, particularly in Third World countries.

Additional quotas for women in legislatures have been a UN recommendation to bring about gender balance in Third World legislatures. But the sense of balance of the UN on many vital issues has been found wanting in places such as Yemen and the Rakhine State of Burma. Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen back into the Stone Age for over two years with the latest weapons of its Western allies and it is only now the UN has awoken to this tragedy but within a few weeks of violence in the Rakhine state of Burma, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has accused Burma with ethnic cleansing.

What Sri Lankans should ask themselves is whether a 25 per cent increase of provincial councillors in the eight provincial councils would lead to a better Lanka or make it worse?

Before that question they should ask whether Sri Lanka was better administered by a Central Government with local government bodies like municipal, urban and lesser councils before our Big Brothers in New Delhi forced nine provincial councils on us in 1987. Count up the expenditure costs on building these mini palatial parliaments, running these establishments, salaries paid to provincial councillors for 30 years .What’s the return? Earlier to establish a private sector project in the provinces, only bribes to central government politicians and officials were required. Now with devolution of power their provincial counterparts too have to be satiated.

And remember the welcome accorded provincial councils 30 years ago? The JVP staged an armed insurrection and the SLFP boycotted elections calling it succumbing to Indian hegemony!A mini war was on.

2017 -30 years later, any attempt to postpone elections to provincial councils is considered by the same parties and their fellow travellers as an attempt to destroy the sovereign power of the people!Provincial Councils are sacred! Another mini war is on the cards.

1 Comment for “Can More Women Politicos Improve Governance?”

  1. Frustrated Voter

    If the. 25% FEMALE Representatives to the PCs. or. other. bodies are to be

    nominated by Political Parties, this would lead to. the wifes ,or sisters or

    daughters of. Kudu Mudalalies, Smugglers, Black Marketeers, Criminals or

    other Underworld Characters being. nominated by the present Political


    Under no circumstances should Representatives. NOT ELECTED. by the

    people be. sent. to these Councils.

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