The next local government elections draw wide attention
The delimitation report recommends a mixed system
Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faizer Mustapha PC, had a chat with the Daily Mirror Excerpts of the interview.
Q On 31 October, 2015 all local government bodies numbering 335 that included municipal councils, urban councils and pradeshiya sabhas fell vacant after their term of office expired. How do you see this situation?
President Maithripala Sirisena has taken a policy decision to postpone local government elections until the government sorts out issues pertaining to the delimitation process.
However, the government is committed to conduct elections for all local government bodies on one day and as early as possible. In this regard Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the elections to local government bodies could be held in March 2016. We, in the government are of the view that local government bodies play a big role in grass root- level development and that conducting local government polls early is vital to the acceleration in developing the state administrative structure beginning from the lowest levels. I personally do not agree with the idea of administering local government bodies under special commissioners and as the minister of provincial councils and local government I am doing everything under my control to expedite local government polls hopefully in March [next year].
The next local government polls in which we plan to pool all our resources would be held in March under the new electoral system.
Q President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe are keen to conclude the elections within this year and concentrate fully on economic development, war crime allegations and national issues over the next five years. In this backdrop, when would the local government polls be held?
As I said earlier, I am hopeful that the government could hold local government polls before the Sinhala – Hindu New Year with a rider that the number of controversial issues linked to the recommendations of the delimitation report are dealt with before that.
One of the main recommendations of the delimitation report is a mixed electoral system for local government bodies. That means, the local government polls hereafter would be conducted on the basis of 70% representation under the ‘First Past the Post’ system and 30% under ‘Proportional Representation’.
The Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 22 of 2012 under which the National Committee was appointed for electoral reforms was mandated to make recommendations to the minister for the division of each local authority area into wards, taking into consideration the requirements set out and to determine the boundaries of each ward and assign a name and a number to each of them.
In making its recommendation for the transformation of local authority areas into wards, the National Committee shall take into consideration the ratio of the ethnic composition of the local authority area concerned, the need to ensure representation on the basis of ethnicity, the geographical area of the local authority and its physical features, the population of the local authority area together with the density of such population and the level of economic development of the local authority area.
"I am hopeful that the government could hold local government polls before the Sinhala – Hindu New Year with a rider that the number of controversial issues linked to the recommendations of the delimitation report are dealt with before that"
The National Committee is of the view that having taken into consideration these requirements, it is appropriate to create a ward which shall be entitled to return more than one member when the National Committee shall recommend the creation of a multi-member ward or wards, as the case may be.
Upon the receipt of the report incorporating the recommendations of the National Committee, I would submit the recommendations of the report [together with my own comments] to the president enabling him to order the publication of a Gazette notification confirming the number of wards, their boundaries, names, number, the assigned alphabetical code in English to each ward created on the recommendations made by the National Committee. In instances where the committee has recommended the creation of multi-member wards, the name and the number or the alphabetical letter assigned to each such, the name of the respective local authority and the total number of members to be elected to each such mufti-member ward, too shall be specified. The minister may alter the boundaries of the wards as published in the Order made under section 3c. However such alterations shall be made on the recommendations of a committee consisting of five persons appointed by the minister and on the requirements under Section 3B of the Order shall apply.
The new boundaries, names, numbers or letters of each ward boundary altered under subs-section (1), shall be published in the Gazette by the minister. These would take effect in an election held under this Ordinance immediately after such alterations are made. For the purpose of assisting a National Committee in fulfilling its mandate, the minister shall appoint a Delimitation Committee at each district level.Now that I have appointed a committee chaired by Minister Kabir Hashim to evaluate the recommendations in the delimitation report and propose relevant and appropriate suggestions and remedial action, I expect we would be able to find solutions to concerns raised by opposition parties.
Local government polls hereafter would be conducted with 70% representation under the First Past the Post System and 30% under Proportional Representation (PR) System.
Q What happened to the committee report that inquired and suggested recommendations to the national de-limitation process?
That report has been handed over to President Sirisena but its recommendations need further discourse among political parties, the public, district level representatives and other stake holders.
Q Would local government polls be held under the much criticised old PR system or the mixed system that re-introduces the ‘First Past the Post’ system?
The next local government polls in which we would pool all our resources will be held in March next year under the new electoral system with 70% under the First Past the Post system which enables voters to elect their members representing a ward and the remaining 30% under the PR system that would address minority grievances. However, we have to sort out a few minor constraints pertaining to the de-limitation process through the Parliamentary Select Committee.
Q You are serving as a legal consultant to President Maithripala Sirisena in addition to your responsibilities as a Cabinet minister. What approach do you think Sri Lanka should adopt in responding to war crime allegations by the UNHRC?
President Maithripala Sirisena appointed me as his legal consultant as he has much confidence in me although I have distanced myself from the interim government
I think the question of a domestic probe on alleged violations of the International Humanitarian Law by a so-called Hybrid Court would not arise because we have a highly independent and robust judicial system.
Q Do you think the government would be able to garner the support of the Opposition, the public and social organisations for the so-called Hybrid Court to probe alleged International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations by soldiers during during the final phase of the war as suggested by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?
I think the question of a domestic probe by a Hybrid Court will not arise because we have a highly independent and robust
judicial system. I can name dozens of internationally renowned Sri Lankan legal luminaries who have served in various global judicial institutions like Justice C.G.Weeramanthri who served as the Vice President of the International Court of Jurists (ICJ).
Apart from him, Sri Lankan lawyers and judges are serving even now in various other countries as judges, state counsel and legal consultants which clearly manifests that we have a credible judicial system. As such a scenario, the sitting of foreign judges on our benches does not arise.
Q You resigned from the deputy minister’s post in the interim UNP government. Why?
I was appointed as the state minister of aviation that in my opinion should be a
Therefore I resigned. But I have been a part of the government right throughout and believe that playing a role in alegal capacity would be better and more productive.