Posted on September 18th, 2016

Courtesy Ceylon Today

From the wig to the Veshti (the traditional, usually snow white Tamil attire, oft mispronounced as Vetti/Verti), Northern Province Governor Canagasabhapathy Viswalingam Wigneswaran (fondly Wiggy to newspaper Editors and journalists for reasons of brevity) these days, does not seem to know from which orifice he is shooting! Whether it is from his lips or from his hips!

It was a steady but elongated run for the Royal College, Colombo 7-educated Wigneswaran to the highest echelons of the Sri Lankan Judiciary and end up as a Judge of the Supreme Court. Wiggy’s Royal College peers include another legal luminary, President’s Counsel Ben (Benedict) Eliatamby (whose elder son Niresh was the immediate past Associate Editor of this newspaper), Blue Chip Corporate icon Kandiah ( Ken) Balendra of Glennie Street fame, Plan Implementation Ministry Secretary-turned Insurance Ombudsman Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, eminent Plastic Surgeon Narendra Wijemanne and globally acclaimed Cricket philosopher Mahinda Wijesinghe of third umpire fame, who, even convinced the then London Headquartered International Cricket Council to change the laws of the summer game, among a host of other luminaries, the literati and the glitterati.

However, in a strange paradox, the Supreme Court Judge Wigneswaran who knew the Constitution inside out while donning the wig and the Judges’ gown till a few years ago, seems to have conveniently forgotten for his convenience, the basic tenets of the Constitution after he changed into the Veshti/Vetti/Verti or whatever one may decide to call it! Wiggy, who has donned the Vetti, now says that the NPC Governor should be removed and that his appointment has been undemocratic! Wiggy, the ex-Supreme Court Judge, now wearing the Veshti, cannot be unaware that the members of the Northern Provincial Council, who have been elected democratically, have the mandate to request the President to remove the Governor, even if they believe that the appoint-ment of the Governor is illegal and undemocratic!! So, for the democratically elected Provincial government which claims that the appointment of the Governor is illegal while having the discretion to request for his removal, could only raise a laugh!!
It was as recently as yesterday that Vigneswaran, in an interview published in the Ceylon Today and as the lead story on Page 2 of our main paper, has emphasized making the governor’s post a ceremonial one.

Serious questions can be raised when he stresses this point not because he is the spearhead of just another Provincial Council but because of the fact that he was a former Judge of the Supreme Court. No way, can he plead ignorance of the supreme laws of this country, which are enshrined in the Constitution.

Powers of the Governor

The 1978 Constitution sets out its guidelines for the formation of the Provincial Councils in Article 154A. The powers of the Governor are very clearly elaborated in Article 154 (B); it very clearly sets out the vested powers of the Governor. It is true that the Governor appointed at the sole discretion of the President is to be the Executive Head of the provincial administration. In the recent developments we saw the Governor of the Northern Province being removed due to the continuous requests made by the council and the Chief Minister when the administration was changed on 8 January 2015. Therefore, we do not see any possibility of a dictatorship to build up in the act. Also it is safeguarded with the power vested in the Constitution to remove the Governor under Article 154 (B) 4 (a).

(4) (a) The Provincial Council may, subject to sub-paragraph (b) present an address to the President advising the removal of the Governor on the ground that the Governor –

(i) has intentionally violated the provisions of the Constitution;

(ii) is guilty of misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of the powers of his office; or
(iii) is guilty of bribery of an offence involving moral turpitude,
if a resolution for the presentation of such address is passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of members of the Council (including those not present).

The Governor exercises his power through the Chief Minister and the four Provincial Ministers who are appointed by him. Thus one could see that the Governor is a mere figurehead who is subject to the control and directions of the President.
The 13th Amendment goes on to say that the Governor shall exercise such executive power ‘either directly or through the Ministers of the Board of Ministers or through officers subordinate to him’. The term ‘officers subordinate to him refers’ to the members of the Provincial Public Service which has been created under the provisions of the Provincial Councils Act. Therefore, the Governor’s position always appeals for coexistence with the Provincial Council.

Instead of stripping the powers Wiggy should be much worried about the real difficulties in the Northern Province surfacing as we speak. When some of my journalist-colleagues met immediate past Governor of the Northern Province H.M.G.S. (Shums) Palihakkara a few years back he was emphasizing on the incapacity of public servants serving in the area. Thirty years of war has completely destroyed the intellectual cluster of the province hence unlike in other provinces a serious lack of competency, is existing in the province. Is it the Governor dragging the process or the incapacity of the public service? Ideally, Wiggy should be much worried about capacity building of the public workers rather than wasting time on actions to trim the powers of the Governor.

Merely making the position ceremonial will definitely imbalance the checks and balances between the Provincial Council and the Governor. Wiggy says he wants to be working close to the President. How can he see the light when he strives to strip the powers of the Governor, after all he is the representative of the President himself? Bit funny that!
It seems very obvious that Wigneswaran has wanted to reduce the powers of the President, in an obvious strategy to pursue the strategy of establishing the Federal solution.

The Constitution has been mooted and it has been proposed to solve the burning issues of the masses and the deprived and the depraved people, not to fulfil the greedy ambitions and whims and fancies of a Chief Minister!
As for the pipe dream of the federal solution, it will remain a dream. It will be more optimistic than the penniless man who ordered oysters for dinner at the five star beach resort and who hoped to settle the restaurant cheque with the pearls!



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