Quarreling over white elephants
Posted on July 28th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

We believe that the majority of the people of this country regard the Provincial Councils to be no less than massive white elephants burdening the long-suffering taxpayers of Sri Lanka. The long-standing Tamil demand for regional autonomy resulted in the creation of this monster that has only benefitted the political class with very little evidence of the devolution that was the raison d’etre for setting them up to be seen. Instead we have seen the multiplication of elected, paid political offices, replete with lavish perquisites, providing a new avenue for politicians to do very nicely for themselves and also aspire for Parliament as the next step up the ladder.

After the bloodbath of 1983 and the escalation of LTTE terror that followed, Operation Vadamarachchi was the first major military operation mounted by Sri Lanka’s armed forces to finish off the Tigers that had all the signs of being a sure winner. India’s barely concealed intention of launching what was called Operation Poomalai (Flower Garland) or Eagle Mission 4 of a food drop over the Jaffna peninsula on June 4, 1987 was to give Colombo a clear signal that she would intervene militarily if Sri Lanka’s ongoing effort to crush the LTTE was not abandoned. The message, delivered against a bullying backdrop of Indian air power with a squadron of Mirage jetfighters escorting the five AN 32 military transporters carrying 25 m.t. of mostly parippu dropped over Jaffna, was clearly received. The so-called Indo-Lanka Peace Accord under which the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed here followed soon after. But there was no LTTE surrender as envisaged by the Accord. Instead the Tigers fought the IPKF and the Indians took more fatalities than they had in three wars with Pakistan and lost Rajiv Gandhi to a Tiger suicide bomber.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, thrust down our throats by India, was the genesis of the Provincial Councils that this country has since been saddled with was the result. There has never been a demand for regional autonomy outside the north and the east of Sri Lanka. But as then Minister of National Security, the late Lalith Athulathmudali, was to famously say, “You can’t give to Jaffna what you won’t give to Hambantota.” So we had Provincial Councils countrywide with the north and the east ‘temporarily’ merged to form a single unit. Whether the people of the east wished that merger to continue was to be tested by a referendum that was never held. Eventually, it was ended by a decision of the Supreme Court.

Having completed their five-year terms of office, the North Central, Eastern and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councils stood dissolved from September last year. The affairs of those provinces have since been run by their Governors who are appointed by the President. In September this year – just a few weeks from now – the terms of the Central, Northern and North Western PCs will also end. That is why newspaper front pages are filled these days with reports of the delays in holdings the PC elections, the demand that they be held with due dispatch and accusations that the incumbent regime with its sorry performance at the local elections last February is in a state of abject funk about facing the electors again.

Just as in the case of the local elections, we are now hearing all kinds of dates of when the PC elections will be held. Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya is on firm record saying that he is ready to have the elections whenever Parliament enacts the necessary legislation. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reported yesterday saying that these elections will be held before the presidential and parliamentary elections. This implies that they’ll be held next year. We report Professor G.L. Peiris, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Pakshaya, saying he will go to court in the short term if the elections are not quickly scheduled. December and January dates are frequently tossed around. It stands to reason that the UNP and SLFP which were drubbed at the February 10 local elections, which were eventually held only after much foot dragging, will not be enthusiastic about another electoral contest before the big races down the road.

But there is no way in which they can avoid these elections. If they fear being routed once again, it is best for them that it happens sooner rather than later and there is more time for them to get their acts together before the national elections. At least this time round, we would have all if not most of the PC elections together. That is much better than having them on a staggered basis as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa did when he called the shots to extract maximum advantage for himself. The politicians burdened the country in February with twice as many local councilors as we did before; at what cost and to what purpose? Now the debate is whether the PC elections will be under the new law or the old one. The people do not care just as much as they don’t care whether we have PCs or not.

One Response to “Quarreling over white elephants”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Hope we restrict all white elephants that undermine state.

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