As the three pieces of legislation, amending the Municipal Councils Ordinance, the Urban Council Ordinance and Pradeshiya Sabha Act were enacted, more people including the top notch political leaders felt that the stage was - more or less - set for conducting the local authorities’ elections.
Govt. does not seem to be keen to declare polls any time soon
Mano tells Faizer to delay signing gazette notification outlining electing members
TPA advocates power decentralisation
Rishad criticised for failure to bring down CoL
Nevertheless, the government does not seem to be keen in declaring the election any time soon. It is now seeking to put off polls under the flimsiest pretext of taking time to carve out a few more local bodies in the Nuwara-Eliya district. It is said to be done at the behest of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), a political force to reckon with in the plantation sector, particularly in the Nuwara-Eliya district.
TPA leader Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganeshan called for a press conference and requested Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha to delay the signing of the Gazette notification outlining the number of members to be elected to each local body till the new ones, earmarked in the Nuwara-Eliya district, were created sooner or later.
Of course, Minister Ganeshan’s political movement, representing the Tamils of Indian origin concentrated mainly in the central hills, has special interests in clamouring for more and more local bodies to look after the interests of plantation sector workers.
It is a party that advocates such form of power decentralization, probably as the initial stage of seeking greater devolution later.
It was once outlined in clear cut terms by its MP Mylvaganam Tilakaraj in an interview with Daily Mirror. He said the Tamil population needed administrative power first and political power next. As an educated MP whose views epitomizes the political aspirations of burgeoning plantation sector Tamils, his remarks correspond well with the latest demand for more and more local bodies to be created in the plantation sector in the Nuwara-Eliya district.
The argument is that there were more than 200,000 people each in the Pradeshiya Sabhas of Nuwara-Eliya and Ambagamuwa in the same district, and therefore, they should split further to carve out a few more additional local authorities for convenience in governance.
"Minister Ganeshan’s political movement, representing the Tamils of Indian origin, has special interests in clamouring for more and more local bodies to look after the interests of plantation sector workers"
If the government were genuinely interested in doing so, it had more than two years to dispense with the task at hand rather than waiting till now. The renewal of such a demand, at this juncture when the stage is being set to call for elections, is now interpreted as the TPA playing into the hands of the government which tries to dodge elections some way or the other.
The issuance of the gazette notification is the only legal requirement needed by the government to initiate action for conducting the polls. Any delay in this exercise will put off elections day by day. The creation of new local bodies or upgrading the existing ones as Urban Councils or Municipal Councils is not a new phenomenon. It has happened right throughout, and there is no basis for the government to use it as a ruse to withhold elections.
Alongside, the government found yet another means that could give some justification for delaying polls. In the Northern Province, the elections to two local authorities - Puthukuduiruppu and Maritime Pattu - had not been conducted since 2010. When the new election system for the local authorities was introduced in 2012, these two were exempted from it. As such, the elections could have been conducted in them under the old Proportional Representation System at any time.
Now, Minister Mustapha said the government had decided to cover them under the new system along with the rest of other local bodies in the country. The government would require time in this exercise to bring about fresh legislation and for delimitation of electoral wards. All in all, it is widely believed in political circles that the local authorities’ elections would be delayed at least till March next year, though the government politicians made pronouncement that it could be held no later than January.
"Minister Susil Premajayantha detailed out the retail price list of essential items in the market, and said it would be vital for Minister Bathiudeen to relinquish his office if he were unable to address the issue"
The government’s apathy in conducting the polls is a unique situation in the contemporary political history of Sri Lanka. Under normal circumstances, the party in the government is ever ready to have local elections as they are a clean sweep for them. After the United National Party (UNP) won parliamentary elections in 2001, it had local elections in 2002. In fact, the UNP, as the party in power, was able to capture even the Attanagalle Pradeshiya Sabha which was considered a stronghold of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
In stark political contrast, the situation looks different today with a new political landscape shaped in the country. When it comes to elections, the incumbent government is prevaricating. According to political sources, the SLFP led by President Maithripala Sirisena is the party with the least interest to go for polls fearing that it would be relegated to a dismal third position.
The government, all in all, is determined to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to avoid elections
Rishad in the centre of criticism
Trade and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was in the centre of criticism at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as his Cabinet colleagues took him to task over the failure to contain the rising cost of living .
Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa was the first to send a verbal barrage against him saying the prices of essential items were going through the roof. He is reported to have said that though the Minister crowed over measures for controlling the living costs, nothing had materialized.
Science and Technology Minister Susil Premajayantha detailed out the retail price list of essential items in the market, and said it would be vital for Minister Bathiudeen to relinquish his office if he were unable to address the issue. President Sirisena also said he observed that the measures taken for containing the prices had not yielded any positive result.