March 12 Movement for Clean Politics

M12M: Speak out and act for clean politics

Daily Mirror Editorial

The March 12 Movement was set up two years ago for clean politics, good governance, more checks and balances to consolidate democracy and to eventually move towards a just society. The Movement is seeking the support of civic-conscious citizens, the State and private media groups for the 25-day countrywide campaign starting on March 13 to achieve the vision and goals which the people voted for at the presidential election on January 8, 2015.

The M12M, as the Movement is known believes that it is vital to carry the message to the grassroots level and that it is the reason why it is going countrywide. People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told a news conference this week that M12M hoped that civic action groups and responsible citizens would work to ensure that the hopes and expectations of the people were met despite many negative aspects at present. PAFFREL is one of the main groups in the National Steering Committee of the M12M.

M12M says that even though women would enjoy the mandatory 25% representation at the upcoming Provincial and Local Council elections and at the next parliamentary elections, the people should pressure their political leaders to persuade talented and skillful women to contest. Hitherto, women’s representation in politics has come largely through family connections. For instance Sri Lanka produced the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Banadranaike in 1960 and in 1994 her daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was elected as the Executive President. In Parliament today, of the 225 representatives thirteen are women but more than ten have come through family connections. For a multitude of reasons — including dirty politics, character assassination and rowdy behaviour even in Parliament — the most qualified and talented women apparently do not come into politics. This situation needs to be changed.

M12M also says that despite the level of youth representation not being mandatory according to the new Act, the people should persuade their party leaders to include more youth in their nomination lists.

In giving nominations, PAFFREL has proposed certain criteria and standards so that in Parliament, Provincial and Local Councils we will see sincere, selfless and sacrificial representatives who will be servants of the people, instead of plundering and pillaging the wealth of the country. PAFFREL, which for many years has played a leading role as an election observer, now hopes to expand its scope of duties and responsibilities. It says the aim is to bring about a constructive change in the prevailing political culture at a time when the country has reached a crucial moment in its political history.

PAFFREL says it is aware this is not a task that could be performed single-handed by any individual or party. Hence, all parties, civic action groups and responsible citizens need to take responsibility and share leadership in this crucial mission. To bring about a people-friendly political culture, PAFFREL says it engaged in interactive dialogues with opinion making and pressure groups in society, including religious dignitaries, youths, professionals, administrative officials, journalists, business leaders and civil society activists. The aim was to identify the reasons that led to the deterioration in the political culture and remedial measures.

Among the criteria for the nomination of candidates are:

  • Should not be a person who had served a jail sentence for a crime or a person who had received a suspended sentence.

  • Should not be a person who had been found guilty of bribery or corruption and should be acceptable to society and a person of good character. Be cautious when considering candidates allegedly involved in bribery or corruption.

  • Should not be a person who is engaging or had engaged in the past in trades such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, casinos and prostitution.

  • Should not be a person who is engaging or had engaged in trade which destroys the ecological life support system.

  • Should not be a person who has abused political power.

  • Should not be a person who had entered into financial agreements prejudicial to the country.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was elected to office on January 8, 2015 pledging to restore good governance, democracy and social justice. It has made some progress but there is a long way to go and we hope the M12M’s countrywide march will mobilize public support for servant leadership and clean politics.