The Cabinet nod has been given to amend the law for the introduction of this system which is a mix of proportional representation and the First Past the Post method
If Provincial Council elections are held as announced, the government will be legally bound to implement in full the 13thAmendment.
The conduct of elections to the provincial councils is in the interests of the top brass of the government but fresh political hurdles now stand in the way of it.
The government has taken a policy decision to conduct the elections, already delayed over a legal glitch, under a fresh criterion for the elections of members. The Cabinet nod has been given to amend the law for the introduction of this system which is a mix of proportional representation and the First Past the Post method. It proposed 70 percent of members to be elected in respect of each constituency and 30 under proportional representation.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the main party of the government, is keen to have the elections as early as possible after the enactment of the new piece of legislation that gives effect to the proposed electoral system. At last Monday’s Cabinet meeting, a decision was to be taken to refer the proposal to be drafted into bill for enactment after the passage through Parliament.
However, the Cabinet Ministry who represent the parties that are aligned with the SLPP to form the government raised objections to the content of the proposed bill. They were against the proposal to field three candidates from the same party for each electorate. These Ministers insisted that consensus should be reached among the parties in the government before working out the final draft of the bill. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has now called for a meeting of the party leaders on April 19 to discuss and iron out differences in this regard.
This represents a major obstacle in the early enactment of the bill to call for elections. The provincial councils lapsed their terms starting from 2017. At the moment, all the provincial councils remain defunct with elections being unable to be conducted because of a legal issue that emanates from the new Act signed under the previous government.
The initiative by the new government to clear the obstacle in terms of enactment fresh legislations is bound to be an exercise taking time. First, the government has to bring about consensus within its own ranks. After the bill is signed into Act, the delimitation process has to be completed. There is already a delimitation report worked out by the previous government dividing the country into 222 electorates in view of the elections to the provincial councils. The new government will obviously have a relook at it. It is true that a section of the government wants elections as early as possible. However, it is a time consuming exercise to sort out issues at hand.
The conduct of elections to the provincial councils is in the interests of the top brass of the government
In addition to such challenges, the public pressure is also building on against the conduct of elections to reconstitute the provincial councils. An influential segment of the political forces that backed this government has come out openly against it. Instead, these ask for scrapping the system, rather. Fourteen leading Buddhist monks recently rote an open letter critical of the move to call for elections at this hour.
They are Ven. Ittepane Dhammalankara Mahanayaka Thera , Ven. Diviyagaha Yasassi Nayaka Thera, Ven. Dodampahala Chandasiri Mahanayaka Thera , Ven. Karagoda Uyangoda Maitrimurti Mahanayaka Thera, Ven. Matale Dhammakusala Anunayaka Thera, Ven. Balangoda Sobhita Nayaka Thera, Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Mahanayaka Thera Ellawala Medhananda Nayaka Thera, Ven. Prof. Tumbulle Silakkhanda Nayaka Thera , Ven. Omare Kassapa Anunayaka Thera, Ven. Prof. Kandegoda Vimaladhamma Anunayaka Thera, Ven. Akuratiye Nanda Nayaka Thera, Ven. Prof. Medagama Nandavamsa Nayaka Thera and Prof. Agalakada Sirisumana Thera.
“Making preparations to hold Provincial Council elections in haste, similar to the passing of the 20th amendment to the Constitution, seems to be a hint that the promise placed before the people of the country to have a new constitution is only a facade.
The recent UNHCR resolution passed recently in Geneva reveals the shameless attempts of the Western interests to annul the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In this regard it is sad to note that there are sections within the Government, the opposition and the NGO sector that are hand in glove with various groups who are hell-bound to destroy our country.
The short-sighted cabinet decision to hold elections for Provincial Councils before getting the recommendations of the Committee appointed by this same Government in regard to a new Constitution should be considered as a golden opportunity lost to rectify a wrong that is hindering the future path of progress of this country.
If Provincial Council elections are held as announced, the government will be legally bound to implement in full the 13thAmendment. According to the provisions of the 13thAmendment, Provincial Councils are allowed to establish Provincial Police Forces and hold firearms, ammunition and other equipment,” they wrote.
In the past, only India has taken a particular interest in the implementation of the 13th Amendment in Sri Lanka, a constitutional provision incorporated into the Constitution in consequent to the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord. India has repeatedly called for its implementation. Now, the reconstitution of the provincial councils in accordance with the 13th Amendment is a matter that has crept into the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka.
As such, the government is under pressure from India and the international community to conduct elections. At the same time, it is under compulsion from its local support base to scrap the system. It is now a matter of reconciling these two contrasts. Management of public opinion or reconciling it with international demands are natural challenges in democratic governance. Previously, the government acceded to the local pressure. That is exactly what happened when it reneged from the commitment by the previous government to develop the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port. The internal pressure regarding the provincial council system is also something difficult to be ignored.