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25 June 2013 05:56 am - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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UNP Puttalam District MP Palitha Range Bandara spoke to the Daily Mirror about his stance on the 13th Amendment and shared his thoughts on the future of Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka.
 

The best place to discuss this matter is in Parliament. That way all Parliamentarians have a chance to voice their views and concerns. We need to consider this matter in a democratic way

Q:  When the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) presented its Bill titled ‘Twenty First Amendment to the Constitution,’ which sought to repeal the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, you were the one who seconded it. Can you tell me your reasons for doing so?
A: Well, first of all I must say it doesn’t matter who brought the Bill to Parliament. It could be the JHU, it could be a Tamil party or a Muslim one. What we must consider is the value of the issue that is being brought to light through this Bill. What I take into consideration is whether it would benefit our country; after all that is what we are here to do.

I think the issue of the 13th Amendment and the JHU’s Bill deserve to be debated and discussed. Rather than talking about it outside, the best place to discuss this matter is the Parliament. That way all Parliamentarians have a chance to voice their views and concerns. We need to consider this matter in a democratic way, to take the best decision. It cannot be achieved by leaders acting in a dictatorial manner like Hitler or Mussolini. Therefore, I believe that in order to reach the best decision, this matter needs to be discussed and debated among everyone in Parliament and it is important to take everyone’s views into consideration before taking a decision.



Q: Personally, what is your stance on the issue of the 13th Amendment?
A: Before answering that question, let me first explain why the 13th Amendment was included in the Constitution in the first place.
 The 13th Amendment was included as a result of international interventions. The main aim of the 13th Amendment was to prevent the rise of terrorism in the country. Even when J. R. Jayawardena was President there were demands by the Tamils. The 13th Amendment was brought in response to these demands and to appease the Tamil population. A provincial council could not be introduced just to the North. That would have caused an imbalance of power. Therefore it had to be introduced to the whole country. That is why nine provinces were named and the provincial council system was introduced to the country. However, was it successful in preventing terrorism? No it was not. Terrorism was not prevented by the 13th Amendment. Finally, it was the war which defeated terrorism.

The second aim of the 13th Amendment was to decentralise power. However, even with the 13th Amendment, power was not de-centralised. Even J. R. Jayawardena, who introduced the 13th Amendment, did not give police powers and land rights to provincial councils, nor did any of his successors. Consider the education sector. All the good schools are under the central government. Consider health. All the best hospitals are under the central government. Those poor hospitals which have no doctors, no nurses, no medicine, no facilities – those are the ones that are under the provincial councils. So does this mean power has been de-centralised? No. So the second aim of the 13th Amendment has also failed.

Finally, another reason for establishing the 13th Amendment was to bring politicians closer to the public. However, this has not happened either.

Keeping this in mind, now consider the cost of maintaining provincial councils. Around 3000 million rupees is spent to maintain the eight provincial councils currently in operation. A further 400-500 million rupees would be needed to maintain the additional 9th provincial council in the North. What is the point in spending so much money if the intended aims were not even satisfied? This is a waste of the poor tax payers’ money. It is like spending money to maintain a gun which doesn’t have bullets. What is the point? There is no point in having provincial councils if they did not serve any purpose.  Either the powers outlined in the Constitution should be given to the provincial councils or they should be abolished completely.

There is no point in engaging in politics without powers. That is what has happened to the opposition led by Ranil Wickremasinghe. It doesn’t have any power. Similarly, there is no point in having provincial councils if they don’t have any powers or serve any purpose.



Q: In your opinion is it better to have provincial councils which have power or no provincial councils at all?
A: Unlike India, our country is very small. So the question is whether it is worth having a provincial council system to govern such a small country. Therefore, considering the size of our country, personally, I think we don’t need provinces to govern Sri Lanka.

However, I do believe that politicians need to be closer to the public. They need to be more approachable and easily accessible. In order to achieve that, I think what we really need is a local council system. The Local Council representatives would not have fences or walls in their houses. They would travel on bicycles. In short, they would be much closer to the ordinary people. They should be given the power to take decisions regarding issues and the power to bring in regulations. Of course they will still be under Parliament; otherwise it would become a big issue. But we must start a district council system like this.

This is my personal opinion but when I voiced it there were many others who shared the same views and expressed their support for such a system.



Q: What happened to your alliance with Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party?
A: This is a false claim. I was never a part of Sarath Fonseka’s party. It is true that earlier, I did help General Sarath Fonseka but it was during the time that he did not have a party of his own. But I have never been a member of his party, nor have I ever expressed my support or alliance to such a party. I came into politics as a member of the UNP and still my loyalty is with the UNP. I have not been affiliated with any other political party.



Q: There is a rumour that all parties in the opposition would join to form a common opposition. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I have always told Ranil Wickramasinghe that this was exactly what we needed. All the opposite parties need to join for the opposition to come to power. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga formed a government after allying with 23 political parties. The current government is corrupt. This government has no regard for law and justice. It acts in a complete lawless manner. In order to change, the opposite parties need to form a common opposition because that is the only way the opposition can come to power.

However, in order to do this, the opposition needs a strong, attractive leader. Where we are going to find such a leader is the question.
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  Comments - 4

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  • LANKALEY Tuesday, 25 June 2013 01:29 PM

    so u give bullets or Cannon balls to fire with the gun IDIOT!!

    laksiri Tuesday, 25 June 2013 11:08 AM

    great interview and this article gives people to know who is this MP,it look like some one well understand what is the current position of provincial council system and keep your policy while sumanthiran kind of people trashing the country every where.

    Outspoken Tuesday, 25 June 2013 11:38 AM

    Hon. Range Bandara, I wish to correct your statement. You say "Terrorism was not prevented by 13th Amendment and finally war defeated terrorism". In the first place, was 13th Amendment implemented in the north ? No. 13th Amendment is only in our constitution, but there is no implementation of it. You being a matured politician, you should argue the point intelligently. Otherwise people will reject you next time.

    chitra Tuesday, 25 June 2013 12:09 PM

    Thank you for explaining everything clearly.


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