Can we afford Elections and Provincial Councils?
Posted on December 23rd, 2020

Prof. S. Amaratunga DSc

Government, it is reported, is thinking of holding PC elections in April next year. It is improbable that either the Covid or the economy would be in a satisfactory situation by April next year to allow elections for an institution that is largely non-essential.  Our economy has recorded negative growth for the first two quarters and is just beginning to turn around. Our foreign debts amount to mind-boggling sums. People are clamouring for sustenance as their livelihood and daily-paid jobs are totally disrupted. Covid-19 is spreading and will stay for some more time affecting both health and economy. Sri Lanka may not get a vaccine for at least another year for adequate vaccination of its people. Countries which are mass-producing vaccines need them for their own use or have pledged them to other countries.

Are PC elections so important that the government has to take an enormous risk and hold them at this juncture ?  The general election was held successfully when the Covid was under better control as that election was crucial for the management of the country’s affairs. Now the Covid is not under control and the provincial councils are not essential for the people. In fact people consider them an encumbrance and a huge burden they are called upon to carry quite unnecessarily. People voted for this government enmasse giving a 2/3rd majority, considered impossible in a PR electoral system, hoping that all these burdens and threats would be removed for ever. They will turn against this government enmasse if these problems are made to continue unabated.

The Government is already under fire for mismanaging Covid and allowing the second wave to arise. Some say it was the election campaign in August that may have caused the second Covid wave. If the Government holds the PC election while the Covid is spreading chances are high that the Government may lose control of the pandemic. Our health system would be overburdened and will not be able to control the death rate at present level of 7 per million. We may have to face a situation similar to what is seen in India. The economic downturn may become worse due to the spreading Covid and the impact on the poor people would be worse than in India. Government will earn an indelible black mark which could pave its downfall. 

An election under Covid conditions may cost about Rs 8-10 billion. The general election in August 2020 cost about Rs.10 billion. Can we afford this while the poor are starving ?  This money could be used for poverty alleviation and food assistance which is the need of the hour. The poor had already started to get on to the street to clamour for means of living. And if they see the Government holding an election, unnecessary in their eyes at this time,  they may even start food riots. Even after the Covid is eventually brought under control its effect on the economy will remain for several years.

Several Provinces have existed without their Councils with no breakdown of essential services to the people for more than one year due to elections not being held. Though it is argued that not holding elections on time is a denial of democratic rights not holding elections for redundant institutions which in fact are a white elephant and a burden on the tax paying poor people could be considered a blessing in disguise. PCs were created as a solution to the so called ethnic Tamil problem but the silence of Tamil politicians on the issue of delay in elections to the Northern PC is deafening to say the least. If they can do without their PC there cannot be an ethnic problem of enormous magnitude which necessitated  the introduction by force of the 13th A by India. People of this country did not ask for the 13th A, it was forced on us by a hegemonic imperialist India partly to pacify Tamil Nadu politicians, and to prevent other interested global powers getting into the fray for geopolitical reasons.

The Provincial Councils do not serve any useful purpose. One cannot see a single project or beneficial outcome that has resulted from PC activity anywhere in the country. Instead it is another bureaucratic barrier to the people that increase the red tape, inconvenience, waste of time, money and energy of the people. Further it has increased the number of corrupt politicians that people have to bribe to get any official work done. The devolution of power via these PCs is totally redundant as shown by the inability of the Northern PC, which was formed for the very purpose of solving the Tamil problem, to make use of the opportunity to serve the people. The work done by these PCs could easily be carried out by the GA and the kachcheri system we had previously without the involvement of politicians. Similarly administrative power could be devolved to the North through the local government institutions. The 13th A with its Land and Police powers hangs over us like a Sword of Damocles which could eventually pave the way for a separate state. Thus the 13th A and its offspring the provincial councils could be done away with bringing great benefit to the people including Tamils.

One may ask what about the Tamil problem. Firstly this has not been clearly explained. As far as any fair minded person could see Tamils in Sri Lanka are better off than Tamils in India. In Tamil Nadu for instance, Tamils cannot represent a case in courts in the Tamil language, leave alone anywhere else in India, where as Tamils in Sri Lanka could do so anywhere in the country. Tamils in the North and the East have no issues that other communities do not have regarding the use of language, education, employment, economy, household income, culture, sports etc. The house hold income in Vavuniya is better than that in Kandy, so are the roads. They have excelled in education. They have no special problems that arise due to their ethnicity. If Tamils are  discriminated they would not be able to achieve what they have. As for their political rights, these could easily be addressed at the centre of political power instead of at the periphery as the country is very small. Tamil representation at the centre should be made more meaningful particularly on matters related to minorities. The money saved by the removal of the  PCs and 13th A  could be used for the benefit of everybody. Tamils and other minorities should be made to develop a sense of belonging in the country of their berth.

Prof. S. Amaratunga DSc

One Response to “Can we afford Elections and Provincial Councils?”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Pohottuwa won the Local Government Elections in February 2018, the Presidential Elections in November 2019 and the Parliamentary Elections in August 2020 all with massive majorities! What more democracy is needed in this land of ours. People have given their mandate over and above what is needed to run the nation on their own. Most bill in the parliament need only a simple majority. Most others that require a 2/3rd majority are already covered.

    One wonders what is the need for the now defunct White Elephants called the Provincial Councils. A Provincial Council in Sri Lanka is 1/30th the size of a State in India. Even the States in India do not get the powers that is given to the PCs in Sri Lanka. Moreover as if those are not enough much more – land, police and other powers are envisaged for the future – a clear pathway to balkanization of Sri Lanka and a stepping stone to balkanize India.

    Since the death of Prabhakaran India too is not interested in PCs in Sri Lanka although they pay lip service to keep Tamil Nadu politicians happy. The world is undergoing the rigours of Covid-19 and now its mutant variants it is high time this curse on the people of Sri Lanka is forgotten for good. India cannot impose the burden of PCs on Sri Lanka once more taking into consideration the times and their own security concerns. India’s security concerns are best looked after by a Central Government in Sri Lanka and not by a tiny province which can be tomorrow in the hands of a world power intent on balkanizing India.

    Most of all one fears what would have been the situation in Sri Lanka had Sri Lanka had full powers granted to 9 provinces during the current pandemic! Sri Lanka would have been next to America and not India!

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