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prov. governors as political agents and “Rajapaksa phobia”
Published Date: 11/01/2019 (Friday)

By Kusal Perera

President Sirisena had requested UPFA parliamentarians to pressure the government to hold Provincial Council elections, reported DM online last Wednesday. The report also said, the President had told them, the government should be asked to even amend the law to have elections under the previous law.   
For over one year now, 03 of the 09 Provincial Councils (PC), Eastern, Sabaragamuwa and North-Central stand dissolved from October 2017. Since October last year, 03 more PCs, the Wayamba, Central and Northern PCs also stand dissolved. National Election Commission (NEC) chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, keeps promising the NEC that he would hold elections within 03 months when the Minister so decides.   

It is an insanely sickening situation. We have so called “civil society” campaigners and political leaders who want the sordid and a wretched parliament that’s corrupt to the core to continue. We have a NEC, that compromised with one of its 03 members, who petitioned the SC by himself, but claimed he also represented the interests of the Commission and said his FRs are violated unless the present parliament continues undissolved; the worst and the most corrupt parliament in the history of independent Sri Lanka.That is what the Colombo middle class also wants as “democracy”. 

The same holds true for PC elections too. Previously PC elections were held under Act No. 02 of 1988. Nominations and elections then had to be scheduled within 08 weeks from the date the PCs are dissolved. This law was amended by the “Yahapalana” government with the PC Election (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2017 which was completely changed during Committee stage from that of the draft bill presented to parliament,for petty political advantages.The amended new law as Act No. 17 of 2017required re-demarcation of constituencies,changing the whole electoral system. Accordingly, President had to appoint a “Delimitation Commission” within 02 weeks from the date the Act was adopted. The Commission is required to submit its report to the Minister within 04 months and the Minister has to table the report within 02 weeks in parliament. The Delimitation report needs a two third vote for approval. If not, the Speaker should appoint a Review Committee (RC) headed by the PM. That whole process is now over. Tabled in parliament, it was not accepted by parliament. The Speaker appointed the RC in late August 2018. That RC had to provide its recommendations within 02 months to the President before end October 2018 to complete the delimitation process and have the Amended Act No.17 of 2017 as the new law for PC elections.   

Three months have lapsed but there is no information and no indication as to what the RC has done with the Delimitation Commission report. Three months beyond the constitutional deadline is a clear violation of the law by this government. The often vociferous JVP and the legal oratory of TNA spokesperson Sumanthiran have gone mute.Nor have the President asked for the RC recommendations, at the end of 02 months. Thus, it is ridiculous for President Sirisena to request UPFA parliamentarians to pressure the government to hold elections as DM reported. It would be more saner for President Sirisena to request the NEC to hold elections under the previous PC election law.   

The NEC and its chairman want the public to believe they have to act as decided by the Minister to hold elections, gleefully ignorant they are mandated by law to get back to the previous PC Elections Act No. 02 of 1988 to hold elections for the much delayed PCs. The law is very specific.Till the new law becomes effective, the previous law as the existing law stands operative. Interpretations leave no void without a law in force. As the PC Election (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2017 is not operative and is not certain when it would be, Act No. 02 of 1988 now stands operative. Those foreign funded civil society campaigners who took to the streets to have “democracy” and the NEC member who petitioned the SC appealing his FR be saved, don’t seem to know, PC elections are a necessary democratic right of the people and there is a law in operation for that.   

All major players in the North and the South imply in all what they say, they are mortally afraid of elections. Although the UNP stood together “post 26 October” to have their government back in the saddle propped by foreign diplomatic interests in Colombo and with funded civil society activism, their very stand for “democracy” was against an “election”. Since getting back to their ministerial seats, some with many issues to grumble about, UNP is not prepared to face an election. Some seem to feel the ground level rejuvenation with their return to power through a hard won struggle, should be used to further improve the party status in the electorates through budget 2019. There is also another thinking within the UNP that tend to argue they need time to accommodate a “new leadership” that can reach the rural voter. Either way, they don’t want any election for now. The ITAK leadership in TNA is also in a dilemma. They are no more accepted in North-East without hard criticism and protests for their role in Colombo that brings no answers to thewar torn Tamil society. There’s a dissenting voice and an alternative in the making.   

 "The larger issue is, with dissolved PCs the Governors become administrative heads of the provinces. They can dictate their preferences to all provincial heads of departments and provincial ministry Secretaries"

President Sirisena is stuck with a revolting group in his “left over” SLFP. These grumbling SLFP parliamentarians want ministerial portfolios they held ‘pre October 26’ and therefore don’t want to have any alliance with Rajapaksa and his SLPP. For President Sirisena, his survival now rests onan electoral alliance with the SLPP for which he is arrogantly working towards. Yet he is still not able to face any election with the SLPP laying conditions for an alliance. Sirisena meanwhile has taken steps to have PCs under him through newly appointed Governors. He has appointed 08 new Governors, all very conspicuously, “anti Ranil”. That may have been the only qualification for their appointments.   

Though most Governors appointed in the past had also not been men of much stature and social acceptance, President Sirisena stands out with his appointments. Comically, one appointed as Western Province Governor could not poll enough to even win his Colombo Municipal Council Ward at the last LG elections in 2018 February. His track record is very much chequered, crossing over every now and then from the UNP to SLFP, then tying up with some small minority parties and again moving to the UNP and once again switching loyalties to tag behind President Sirisena while saving himself from being slammed Rupees 100 million as damages for defamation by accepting his irresponsibility and being pardoned for making such statements against Upul Jayasuriya PC. That qualifies one for WP Governor. Another in the Kelaniya University clerical staff designated as a “Course Co-ordinator” and interdicted from service sometime back, was appointed to Uva, his birth province and subsequently moved to South. He was Media Co-ordinator for Plantation Minister Kiriella from 2002 to 2003. Once the Wickremesinghe government was dislodged by President Kumaratunge in 2004, he moved away with the “anti Ranil” group in the UNP and was blindly canvassing for Sajith P to the leadership while parading himself as an “independent election monitor” funded heavily by foreign donors. Yet another who broke into Colombo discussion forums via the Colombo University, whose doctoral publication on Buddhism and politics is what is marketed for all purposes, surprised everyone who sat for his new discourse on Gramsci when he suddenly appeared as an advisor to President Sirisena. A somersault he found extremely difficult to defend in social media. His profiles often keep out his “connections” with Canada and his Canadian Citizenship. One would thus wonder though no MP can hold dual citizenship, could one with dual citizenship be a Provincial Governor in a country where a non-Citizen could sign on currency notes as Governor CBSL? Or has he denounced his dual citizenship like Geetha Kumarasinghe? That’s for the North.   

Where ethnicities carry blind trust, even former Northern Province CM Justice Wigneswaran has taken to him as a Tamil. Ethnicity apart, he politically represents a President who is stubbornly against any war crimes probe and stand by crimes committed by security forces personnel taking them to be “Ranaviruwo” (war heroes). A President who is making every attempt to promote himself as a Sinhala Buddhist leader; attempts at reviving ancient incidents as Sinhala Buddhist heritage. All others appointed are also of very inferior quality to be Governors but qualifies as capable of running along with President Sirisena.   

The larger issue is, with dissolved PCs the Governors become administrative heads of the provinces. They can dictate their preferences to all provincial heads of departments and provincial ministry Secretaries. They are also the Chief Accounting Officers of provinces and will have authority to approve or reject financial commitments, though they cannot decide on new allocations. All of them in that way become direct “political” agents of President Sirisena in 08 of the 09 provinces, until elections are held to have a Chief Minister and the board of ministers with an elected Council. Till then its “Colombo democracy” without elected PCs and with no political party in parliament wanting PCs, suffering from that incurable disease, the “Rajapaksa phobia”

Source: Daily mirror

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