Sri Lanka’s citizens have a great appetite for reform following 2015’s changes to their constitution.
The 19th Amendment promises a greater shift towards increased parliamentary practices – and Westminster Foundation for Democracy stands ready to help turn this promise into reality.
We believe the parliament must play a more robust role in the country’s governance if it is to contribute to tackling the complex problems faced by Sri Lanka. Rising public wariness about its democratic systems, dissatisfaction over rising levels of corruption and international attention all pose challenges which threaten today’s fragile context. The new administration’s appetite for reform – and the partial reintroduction of parliamentary powers after four decades of rule by an executive presidency – give WFD the space it needs to help strengthen parliamentary practices.
Our new programme builds on many years of work in Sri Lanka. WFD’s links date back almost two decades as a result of the UK Conservative Party’s bilateral relationship with the United National Party. Following the presidential and parliamentary elections that took place in 2015, WFD has begun developing key relationships with Sri Lankan institutions, including contributing to an induction for new MPs in September 2015. Responding to a request for assistance on how to manage the move to establish a parliamentary system, WFD believes the parliament could shape some of Westminster’s rules of procedure to its own context.
Our new programme aims to support this. We will work closely with the Secretariat General’s Office, MPs, Chairs and Members of key committees to streamline the existing practices of the parliament to support the parliament’s oversight and scrutiny functions ensuring sustainable change in the future. WFD, in partnership with the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and supported by the United Nation’s Development Programme and DAI, will develop the capacity of the newly established sectoral committees. Building on our experience with the UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and the role the National Audit Office plays in the UK, we hope to strengthen financial oversight functions of the parliament, which in turn will give citizens more confidence in their elected officials to represent their interests.
Sri Lanka is also set to benefit from WFD’s new integrated programming concept, which brings together our unique combination of parliamentary and political party expertise. We will help maintain the momentum of the current drive to reform by offering British expertise on how parties can operate most effectively within the parliament. It is only when the two institutions of party and parliament are functioning well together that citizens benefit from better policy, accountability, representation and participation in the democratic process. These outcomes are the cornerstones of WFD’s work – and we are committed to advancing them in Sri Lanka.