Devolution conundrum
Posted on February 19th, 2019

Editorial Wednesday 20th February, 2019 Courtesy The Island

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has told the Northern politicians a few home truths. A TNA MP complained, at a recent development review committee meeting, at the Kilinochchi Divisional Secretariat, that Pradeshiya Sabhas had not received funds for housing from either the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) or the government. Responding to him, the PM reportedly said that powers already devolved to the provinces had to be fully utilised before more was asked for. The TNA considers Wickremesinghe a friend and it should, therefore, heed his advice.

One cannot but agree with the PM, on this score. The TNA-controlled NPC hardly did anything constructive or useful to the public. Its sole purpose of being was apparently adopting resolutions against the government, one after the other, and there were instances where it was accused of overstepping its limits.

While claiming that the Sinhala–dominated governments had done nothing for the North and the East, the TNA itself did precious little, through the NPC, for the people who had voted for it, in those parts of the country. This alone is proof that the messianic role the TNA claims to play is as fake as those of the two main parties, and its leaders only flaunt an attractive cause, secure votes and savour power.

Those who are engaged in identity politics are dependent on the bogey of ‘ethnic other’ to keep their block votes intact and cover up their failure to deliver. The TNA seems to be doing likewise, but its failure to live up to the people’s expectations has created a situation where other parties are eating into its traditional vote bank, as evident from the outcome of the last local government polls.

The NPC remained notoriously intransigent in dealing with the government and even refused to cooperate with the latter on matters that were beneficial to the people. In 2014, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa revealed that the NPC had opposed a government move to divert the Mahaweli water to the Iranamadu tank in the North. Why did the NPC do so? The only plausible explanation is that the TNA, which controlled the NPC may have thought such projects would cause an erosion of its vote bank. Rajapaksa also said that the NPC had not utilised the funds allocated for development work.

Meanwhile, the TNA has made a mockery of its advocacy of devolution by propping up a government, which keeps postponing the PC polls, on some pretext or the other. If it really believes that devolution is a prerequisite for looking after the interests of the people in the North and the East, it ought to pressure the government to conduct the PC elections without further delay. The North and the East have been without elected councillors for a long time as the TNA helped the government secure the passage of the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment Act), which enabled the postponement of the PC polls.

Three conclusions are possible from the foregoing. The TNA does not have the interest of the people it claims to represent, at heart, and only seeks political expediency through a captive government; or it does not believe in its own claim that devolution is necessary to guarantee the rights of the people in the North and the East; or it is not interested in the PCs because it is eyeing a different power sharing arrangement which goes beyond the 13th Amendment. It is said that he who pursues the stag regards not the hare.

It behoves the TNA to make devolution work before demanding more powers.

One Response to “Devolution conundrum”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Excellent response by Ranil.

    [Quote] the PM reportedly said that powers already devolved to the provinces had to be fully utilised before more was asked for [Unquote]

    Shows that even the UNP is not keen on the new constitution!

    Although TNA supports the UNP stay in power and rejected Mahinda invitation to join Mahinda’s shrtlived government, they have their tensions. UNP want Tamil votes directly and TNA refuses to give up.

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