TNA’s chickens come home to roost
Posted on December 11th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy Island

Thursday 12th December, 2019

The TNA has woken up to the fact that the people are undergoing difficulties owing to the breakdown of the provincial administration in the North. It says annual transfers of state officials, under the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), cannot be effected without gubernatorial approval and, therefore, the government should appoint a Governor without further delay.

The TNA’s concerns should be appreciated, but here is a textbook example of irony. The TNA has a history of fighting running battles with Governors, whom it accused of usurping the devolved powers, under the previous Rajapaksa administration. It even demanded their removal. But, today, it is urging another Rajapaksa government to appoint a Governor!

The TNA should be asking the government to conduct the much-delayed provincial council polls to elect representatives to the Northern PC. Instead, it is demanding the appointment of a Governor, who will be a representative of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose election it went all out to prevent albeit in vain, claiming that the country would be headed for a dictatorship if he was elected President.

The question of the NCP or any other PC, for that matter, becoming inoperative would not have arisen if the previous government had not abused the Provincial Councils Elections (Amendment) Bill to postpone the PC polls indefinitely. It smuggled in several sections, sans judicial sanction into the Bill, at the committee stage, to put off the PC elections indefinitely. It was ably assisted in the task by the TNA, the JVP and the UPFA. Together, they made a mockery of their commitment to good governance.

Having shamelessly collaborated with the yahapalana government to deprive the people of their right to elect provincial councillors, the TNA is now complaining of the breakdown of the provincial administration in the North! It must be too embarrassing for the TNA to ask the new government to conduct the PC polls.

Chairman of the Elections Commission (EC) Mahinda Deshapriya minced no words, on 17 Nov., when he called upon President-elect Rajapaksa and other political leaders present at the Election Secretariat to conduct the PC polls, which, he jokingly said, had been made to disappear. None of the political parties seem to have heeded his call. All of them are now readying for a general election. It is now clear that though the yahapalana leaders and their cheerleaders boasted that the 19th Amendment would strengthen the independent commissions, the EC can only bark when the political authority meddles with the election schedule.

The delimitation process has got caught in a parliamentary logjam and until it is over and passed by Parliament, the delayed PC polls cannot be held either under the Proportional Representation system or the new mixed electoral system. The Review Committee report that the rejection by the House of the Delimitation Report necessitated was not presented to Parliament last year. There is reason to believe that the yahapalana government did not do so deliberately as it was scared of facing the PC polls. The Supreme Court has ruled that the President cannot conduct the PC elections until the Delimitation report is completed and passed by Parliament. Everything that the yahapalana legal pundits touched turned into an unholy mess. Now, it is up to Parliament to rectify the situation by making new laws.

The TNA and the UNP have created a situation where the Governors, appointed by the President, are ruling the provinces in the absence of elected councillors, and thereby proved that the country can do without the PCs. It is, therefore, doubtful whether they will be able to obtain a popular mandate for devolving any more powers. There have been calls, in some quarters, for the abolition of the PC system, which has become a drain on the public purse and led to an administrative mess. They have struck a responsive chord with the people who pay through the nose to maintain nine white elephants.

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