E.H.Pemaratne Former Director Planning, UDA/ Attorney at Law
A never ending controversy between the Government and the TNA on devolution has resulted from the former refusing to grant the above powers to provincial councils, despite its earlier promises, at several international meetings, while the latter insists on it. In this context the Parliamentary Select Committee has become a non-mover. The Government with the special pressure mounted by coalition partners such as the JHU and the JNP advocate that if land and police powers are granted to PCCs that will finally lead to a break away thus creating an independent Tamil state. So it is timely to have a clear understanding of the issue. What would in fact happen if these powers are granted to the PCC?
WHAT ARE LAND POWERS?
Powers enjoyed by the State on land derives from its ownership of land and the power to acquire any land for public purpose. State ownership of land comes under two sources. One is the land owned by various government Departments such as Forest, Wildlife, Railway, Education and Institutions such as the Port Authority, and Local Government Authorities. The rest consists of land administered by the Land Commissioner which is mainly used in colonization schemes. As the land held by respective Departments are to be used to meet the legal needs under the respective laws the power used over land by the state and if devolved to provinces relate only to the land identified as state land and administered by the Land Commissioner a position created under the Land Development Ordinance of 1935.
Another issue is the demand for police powers by the TNA if they are to agree to devolution within a united Sri Lanka. The Department of Police comes under the Ministry of Defence and is administered by the IGP. Their basic function is to enforce the Penal Code and certain statutory offences according to the Criminal Procedure Code which elaborately provides for action to be taken to prevent crimes. In addition to this Civil Defence is also a duty of the Police. Any police action is subject to judicial review by way of writs and fundamental right and also to Parliamentary review. What has happened is with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the Police is gravely politicized and even the independence of the judiciary is being questioned both internally and internationally.
By monopolizing the land and police powers with the Central Government they can only settle the poorest of the poor Sinhalese in these two provinces as no-one with any decent living standards would prefer these areas except those left with no economic alternative. By retaining police powers, the Government can intervene in the civil life in these areas using the politicized police and help Tamil political henchmen take the law into their hands.
Police powers, if granted to the PCC will have to be subject to review by an independent judiciary for which the abolition of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution is a must, in order to prevent the Provincial Political leadership from misusing the powers. If this is done, it is not the country but the President and all levels of government politicians who misuse the police at will for political purposes that will be most affected. So the attempt to thwart the reconciliation chances is sheer egoism and nothing more.
Almost 43 yrs ago a person landed on Moon, in SL we are still had not found a solution to our own issues. Other countries have developed far a head of SL.
Sharing land and police powers are no different from allowing your child to crawl and learn to walk his/her self. There is no point to creating Provincial Council (PC) which has no power to make any different. Current PC is another useless layer of politicians and civil servants and total waste of government money and burden to not just to TAX payers but to the whole citizen!
I look the TNA request from a different angle, it a challenging proposal showing willingness to take ownership for their actions and positively contribute to regional development. No federal solution is completely independent from central control. Countries with federal states with reasonable power sharing are presently doing well, e.g. India, Canada, USA, Switzerland, UK, Australia and UAE.
Vaidy Monday, 18 June 2012 07:23 AM
Apart from the landless people in the North and East the estate tamils woirking under slavery conditions need decent education in their mother tongue in good schools with inteligent children and landless people amoung them should be settled in the balance land in the north and east without delay
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