Decision taken to expedite PC elections
Posted on December 15th, 2020

S. Akurugoda

According to media reports Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has given instructions to the newly-appointed members of the Elections Commission to speed up the process to hold Provincial Council elections as early as possible. This was conveyed to the Elections Commission members during a meeting held at Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence at Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo.

Interestingly, a few months ago, when Indian Prime Minister  Narendra Modi urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa avoided giving any commitment regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment. Instead, he has spoken of the expectations of all ethnic groups including Tamils, and has stated his intention to take care of national reconciliation as per the mandate he received from the people of Sri Lanka and the relevant constitutional provisions.

We thought the above response given to Indian PM by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is an indication of his extent of alertness of the Indian interests, origin, and the repercussions of the 13th Amendment. However, as per a news item titled ‘Magampura’ that appeared in Divaina newspaper dated 09/12/2020, it is learned that the decision to hold the PC election in April is a result of a discussion between former PC Members (SLPP) and the PM.  The news item reveals how frustrated are those former PC members due to the loss of their powers and positions. We, as ordinary citizens, can imagine the frustration of those who experienced the loss of positions, income, wealth, benefits, etc, but needs to know whether there is any benefit to the general public for spending a large sum of funds to provide salaries, allowances, office expenses, vehicles, security, etc to maintain 453 PC Members and how many millions of rupees have been saved from the public funds for not having PC Members during the last two years.

When PCs were under elected members, the country had 9 PC Chief Ministers, 34 PC Ministers and 410 PC Members in addition to nine PC Governors. As far as we are aware, PCs expenditure was reported at 286,031.000 LKR million in 2017. This records an increase from the previous number of 276,147.000 LKR million for 2016. The expenditure is averaging 103,769.000 LKR million from Dec 1996 to 2017. The data reached an all-time high of 286,031,000 LKR million in 2017 and a record low of 22,128,000 LKR million in 1996. (https://www.ceicdata.com/en/sri-lanka/provincial-councils-revenue-and-expenditure/provincial-councils-expenditure)

Apart from the utter wastage of public funds, PCs have strengthened the hands of politicians representing parties formed on communal lines.  As per the media reports,  Northern PC under Chief Minister Vigneshwaran passed more than 100 resolutions (including one seeking a UN inquiry to investigate the genocide of the Tamil people) inciting racial tension and several others that are harmful to the country as a whole. During the establishment of the Eastern Provincial Council, we witnessed how elections were manipulated by the political parties formed and named on a communal basis and how the positions were claimed purely on a communal basis by the very same groups. Thus Segregating people according to communal lines under the name of devolution, reconciliation etc could only strengthen the hands of separatist movements still alive in various parts of the country.

PCs are functioning with governors and officials without any reported issues for more than two years now.  It is interesting to note that those champions who always make a big fuss on ‘democracy’, human rights, etc never raised the question of not conducting PC elections during the so-called ‘Yahapalana’ government. Thus the basic questions we have to sort-out today are the extent of decentralization/devolution of power/power-sharing etc without giving any room to waste public funds just to appease opportunistic and racial elements. 

On the other hand, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the SLPP received two massive mandates at the presidential and parliamentary polls to bring in a new Constitution. As per media reports, the expert committee appointed to draft a new Constitution was trying to meet the original deadline to finish the assignment within six months. Therefore, the committee was planning to finalize the document ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Recently the Justice Ministry extended the time to accept proposals till Dec 31, 2020.  The committee has sought views from interested parties on 11 major items including decentralization/devolution of power/power-sharing etc.

Thus the decision taken to speed up the process to hold Provincial Council elections in April without waiting for the recommendations of the new Constitution is highly questionable.

S. Akurugoda

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