Local Government, Provincial Councils and Sports Minister Faizer Musthapha discussed the failed delimitation process, PC polls, political and current situation in sports with Daily mirror .
Q Not only the joint opposition but the government members also urge you not to delay the Provincial Council polls any further. Is it possible to hold PC polls in January 2019?
Before I answer your question, I must clarify that I am not a party to hold polls. It is the responsibility and the job of the Independent Elections Commission (IEC). What the government could do is to provide facilities and enact necessary laws for the Election Commission to conduct free and fair elections.
I have done my part as the subject Minister to table the delimitation report in Parliament but party leaders failed to debate and pass within the stipulated period of one month and subsequently the debate of the delimitation report was removed from the order paper which caused the delay up to last month. Finally, the vote was taken after a full day debate on August 24, the delimitation report was rejected by 139 votes with none was in favour of. This resulted for Speaker Karu Jayasuriya appointing the five-member Delimitation Review Committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
It is not necessary to get the Parliamentary approval for the report. Therefore, the Prime Minister is required to hand over the five member delimitation review committee report with their recommendations on or before the end of October as the committee was appointed by the Speaker on August 28,” he said.
If and when President Maithripala Sirisena gazettes the report in late October or early November, the elections Commission will be in a position to hold PC polls late January or early February. However, I have heard that the committee has made an appeal to Speaker Jayasuriya to extend the time given to finalize the report by another two months. That means, the PC polls would be further delayed.
Asian games was one of the most hopeless performances and therefore, Sri Lanka needs a complete overhaul of its sports policy, sports law
Q Why the delimitation report was rejected en-masse in Parliament by all political parties?
Mainly, the failure to recommend multi wards to represent minorities and shortcomings in demarcations of PC wards had led to reject the delimitation report. Specially, the minority parties were dead against the recommendations and system of demarcation of PC wards.
Q The SLFP suffered a major setback at the local government polls in February. How are you going to face the forthcoming PC, Presidential and General Elections scheduled to be held next year?
Not the SLFP but the government collectively got a beating at the local government polls. It is common in Sri Lanka’s politics that mainstream political parties have faced severe electoral debacles while in power. The UNP as well as the SLFP have tasted defeats while in power but had won elections in the following years and ruled the country. It is also common that governments become unpopular at mid term elections in many parliamentary democracies.
I believe that the local government election defeat of the government is temporary. You can see now that the euphoria created after the SLPP’s local government success has now been evaporated. This was clearly visible in the recent anti government protest, ‘Janabalaya Kolombata’ staged by the JO. I am confident that the SLFP could emerge victorious at all the forthcoming polls and we have already started reorganising the party at the grassroots level.
- Govt. must enact laws to expedite PC polls
- I am sure SLFP will emerge victorious
- There will be a tough contest among UNP, SLFP and SLPP
Q The JO alleges that you have deliberately delayed conducting the PC polls. How do you react to this allegation?
Allegations do not hold water. I cannot bypass the Act. The new Provincial Councils Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2017 was drafted on the recommendations of the Dinesh Gunawardana Parliamentary Select Committee. Under the new electoral system much criticized Preferential Voting system replaces the Proportional Representation. The voters will have the opportunity to elect 50% of members to their respective Provincial Councils and the rest or another 50% is elected under the Proportional Representation based on votes obtained by each political party. It is mandatory to demarcate boundaries of Provincial Councils afresh before the country goes for PC elections. The President had appointed a five-member Delimitation Committee in October 2017 following the passing of the Provincial Councils Electoral (Amendment) Act in September. After the delimitation report was handed to me on February 19, I tabled the report promptly on March 2 and completed my duty. The delimitation report was to be taken up, debated and passed in a month but it did not happen violating the Parliamentary procedure decided by party leaders. Ultimately, it was fully rejected in Parliament on August 24 requiring Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to appoint a delimitation review committee chaired by PM. Now the ball is in the review committee’s court.
I have learnt that the committee has made a request to extend the term of office by another two months which means the PC polls would be further delayed. I have done my job without any delay and conducting PC polls is beyond my control.
Q President Sirisena has said recently that the UNP or the SLPP will not be able to form a government without support of the SLFP in future. In such a scenario, the SLFP is likely to support the UNP or the SLFP?
Firstly, what President Sirisena has said is absolutely correct. It will be a three pronged contest between the UNP, SLFP and the SLPP in the PC, Presidential and Parliamentary polls. To answer to your question on to whom the SLFP would support is premature because the political tide is changing rapidly. However, it is no doubt that party leader, the President would take the most pragmatic, appropriate and far-sighted decision considering the political and social situation of the day on whose support the SLFP would seek to establish power in a Provincial Council or a government by the SLFP.
I will in the meantime take measures to distance cricket from politics. To do that I am ready to introduce amendments to the Sports Law.
Q The performance of the largest ever Sri Lanka contingent of athletes comprising 245 men and women and officials was sent to the Asian Games – 2018 held in Indonesia, at a cost of more that Rs. 50 million, was not able to win at least a single bronze medal, which was extremely pathetic, shameful and disappointing. What are your comments on these lacklustre performances of our athletes?
Many of the athletes and officials were sent to Indonesia by their respective sports bodies and their expenses were also borne by them. But, it was one of the most hopeless performances and therefore, Sri Lanka needs a complete overhaul of its sports policy and sports law.
I will do the needful and if necessary amend the Sports Law. This has to be done with the cooperation and advice of all stake holders like veteran sportsmen and women who excelled in athletics in the past and brought glory to motherland, all sports bodies, sports administrators, physiotherapists and doctors specialized in sports medicine. I have decided to set up a special unit to identify prospective young sportsmen and women who have the capability and skill to compete in international level and provide them all facilities, financially, physically and mentally.
I expect to get the support of the private sector because in other countries, the private commercial establishments are the prime mover of development in sports. I will also set up a team of sports scouts to identify potential sports talents in the rural areas and schools.
Q The recent setbacks in cricket was another disaster for all Sri Lankan cricket fans. How do you see this?
Yes, the performance of the national cricket team at the Asia Cup was something we never expected. But not only Sri Lanka, other cricketing nations too had suffered drawbacks. I believe this was also such a bad patch and our cricketers would emerge victorious before long. What they need right now is encouragement and motivation from the local cricket-loving public.
I will in the meantime, take measures to distance cricket from politics. To do that, I am prepared to introduce amendments to the Law that governing sports. I am also determined to hold the election to elect members to the Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC) before February as directed by the International Cricket Council (ICC)
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