Elections for the Northern Provincial Council BELIEF IN ‘RULE OF LAW’ AS OPPOSED TO ‘RULE OF PERSONS

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By S.L. Gunasekara

The election for the Northern Provincial Council (the first of its kind) is scheduled for September of this year.  As the President ‘confessed’, the date will be selected by his astrologer – this to my mind is a shameful confession because it indicates that the President depends on the advice of soothsayers, magicians and other charlatans to make decisions pertaining to the governance of this country.  Be that as it may, the announcement of elections to this Provincial Council has evoked a flurry of protests from several nationalist organisations including two parties that are constituents of the government, namely the JHU and the NFF, objecting to the holding of these elections.

The Constitution decrees that there shall be a Provincial Council for each Province.  We are all pledged to obey and defend the Constitution.  Accordingly, any demand that the election should not be held is a demand to ignore and/or act in breach of express provisions of the Constitution.  Already some provisions of the Constitution have been breached by not holding such election to-date.  In these circumstances, it is difficult to see how the demand for not holding such elections can be justified while at the same time affirming a belief in the “Rule of Law” as opposed to the “Rule of Persons”. 

Acting in breach of the Constitution and/or the law is nothing new to this Government or the last few Governments we have had.  However, that does not mean that, that pathetic situation should continue indefinitely. At some stage the “Rule of Law” which we claim to uphold as a civilised country must be honoured and upheld not merely in ‘honeyed words’ but in actual fact.

Although the Constitution must be upheld that does not mean that the Constitution must remain as it is till September and/or thereafter.  Constitutions are made by man and contain within them, provisions for their amendment. 

There is certainly some sense in what those who object to the Provincial Council elections being held for the Northern Province say.  According to them such elections would pave the way for the creation of a separate state in the Northern Province.  While I would not go so far as to say that it would pave the way for separation, it is self-evident that the creation of an elected Provincial Council for the Northern Province with all the structures and institutions attendant thereupon, will provide to all traitors who call for separation, the infrastructure necessary for the creation of a separate state so that separatists could, partly by constitutional means and partly by force establish a separate state in the Northern Province.  It is indisputable that such a base objective must never ever be permitted to be achieved.  Our soldiers did not suffer, sacrifice life limb and comfort so that, that which they gained on the battle ground would be lost in the political process. 

There is another way in which this opposition can be looked at, and that is, that in as much as no objections were raised to Provincial Council elections being held in the other eight Provinces and the Province in respect of which the proposed elections are being objected to is one populated mainly by Tamils, these objections are communally motivated.  Of course such arguments can easily be rebuffed on the basis that the threat of separation did not exist in any of the other eight Provinces and hence the basis of the objection did not arise in such cases. On the other hand it could be argued that those who object to Provincial Council elections being held for the Northern Province are really seeking to discriminate against the other eight Provinces because while they did not object to the totally unnecessary white elephants called Provincial Councils being established in eight Provinces, peopled mainly by the Sinhalese and Muslims, the objection only to a Provincial Council being established for the Northern Province which is populated mainly by Tamils constitutes an act of overt discrimination against the Sinhalese and the Muslims ! 
These however, are, in my view a wrong way of looking at the question.  The question of whether or not an election of Members to the Provincial Council for the Northern Province should be held and/or a Provincial Council Constituted for that Province established is part and parcel of a larger question which is whether Provincial Councils in all Provinces should be abolished and the 13th amendment repealed or not.  What must be remembered and remembered well in this context is that the Provincial Councils were supposed to be a means by which power was devolved on the people, thereby enabling the people to look after their own affairs.  However, even the most ardent supporter of Provincial Councils would find it difficult to contend that, that objective was achieved or was capable of being achieved by the Provincial Councils which are elected on the basis of proportional representation.  It is an undeniable fact that even the candidates for election to the Provincial Councils are selected by party hierarchies in Colombo or by the purported leaders of purportedly ‘Independent’ Groups [such as the now infamous “Spectacle Group” which contested an  election for the Municipal Council of Colombo] and not by the people of the Province concerned.  Further, the system of proportional representation gives undue weight to political parties and strengthens their power and their ability to control the affairs of the Nation.  The process of politicisation of all walks of life is hastened and intensified by this system.  It would be recalled how, not long ago, the SLFP announced that it would be calling for applications for nomination for the Provincial Council Elections for the Northern Province.  What this means is that the party high command in Colombo and not the party branches in Jaffna or the people of the Northern Province would decide who are to be the candidates to purportedly represent the people of the Northern Province. The other parties in the fray are hardly any different in this regard.

" The statistics relating to expenditure will prove that well over 90% of the billions of rupees of public funds spent on Provincial Councils since 1987 have been spent for the benefit and welfare of the Provincial Councillors, their kith and kin and other functionaries of such Councils "

The statistics relating to expenditure will prove that well over 90% of the billions of rupees of public funds spent on Provincial Councils since 1987 has been spent for the benefit and welfare of the Provincial Councillors, their kith and kin and other functionaries of such Councils, so that the general public whom they are purported to being elected to serve have only got the benefit of a minute fraction of such funds and/or the left-overs.  So bad and so shameful has been this process of using public funds for the benefit of political functionaries and not of the People, that Provincial Councillors of several Provincial Councils have, without any sense of shame, even gone on holidays to foreign countries on public funds which could have been better spent for the benefit of the people. 
Thus, the Constitution of an elected  Provincial Council:-

a)   Does not ensure and/or even contribute in any way to the devolution of power to the people who, with the odious system of proportional representation are left only with a choice among those selected by others; and,
b)    Does not serve in any way to benefit the people but only to benefit  the Provincial Councillors, their kith and kin, and other functionaries of political parties. 
The fact that whatever may be the salaries and perquisites officially sanctioned and granted to Provincial Councillors, they are able to suck the people dry of their resources for their own benefit and, essentially, build a ‘war chest’ for future elections and/or a ‘nest egg’ out of which their families can live for several generations is borne out by the number of children and relations of politicians of the Government or of senior politicians and functionaries of the leading parties seeking election to Provincial Councils. 

In these circumstances, in my view the opposition to holding the Northern Provincial Council Elections, the Constitutional imperative that they be held notwithstanding, is misplaced and constitutes an attempt to circumvent the Constitution which cannot be allowed or tolerated.  At the same time there is considerable sense in what the opponents to such elections say about the dangers that would be presented to the country by a Provincial Council probably constituted with a majority of members from among the former lackeys of the LTTE who call themselves the TNA being elected to office. 

Thus, that which is wrong about the demand is not the rationale for the demand, but the manner in which they seek to have their demand executed.  In my view, the only reasonable, logical and lawful manner in which the election to the Northern Provincial Council together with the dangers incumbent thereon can be avoided is by abolishing the entire Provincial Council system and repealing the 13th Amendment.  

We are now at the beginning of May.  The elections are scheduled to be held somewhere in September, namely about four months later.  There is ample time and opportunity for the Government to enact legislation to repeal the 13th Amendment and abolish the entire Provincial Council system including the existing Provincial Councils.  If this be done, even the most bigoted would be unable to complain about communal discrimination etc. and the country would be rid of 8 wholly unnecessary existing white elephants which consume so much of our scarce resources and avoid the creation of another white elephant. 

Though the TNA would have it differently, one fact that must be remembered is that Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and members of all other races and/or all other ethnic groups are essentially the same. The recent squabbles and divisions within the TNA prove in no uncertain terms that the TNA is no different to the pathetic UNP, JVP or UPFA.  The fact that the Northern politician too like his counterpart in the South is concerned more about himself, his ambitions and prospects than about the welfare of the people is further confirmed by the infamous ‘battle of the causeways’ among Tamil politicians of the North during the time of the State Council. While the TNA has the gross impertinence to talk down to the UNP, SLFP, JVP and the other parties of the South, their record shows that they themselves are wholly unconcerned with the welfare of the people and concerned only with their welfare.  This fact is proved beyond all manner of doubt by the silence of the TNA and other communal Tamil parties about the kidnapping of Tamil children and the other atrocities committed by the LTTE on the Tamils, and also by their present deafening silence on the foul theft of the fish and hence the livelihood of the Tamil fishermen of the North and East by the Tamil fishermen of South India.

Since there is nothing  to choose between the Tamil and the Sinhalese politicians, and establishing a Provincial Council for the Northern Province will only result in further administrative confusion and a greater wastage of public funds by means of creation of a 9th white elephant in addition to the existing 8 white elephants, the creation of that 9th white elephant must be opposed, not by opposing only the creation of  the 9th  Provincial Council while leaving the other eight to plunder the people some more, but by abolishing both the existing eight and the prospective ninth white elephant by means of a Constitutional Amendment.

The question why a Government which has a 2/3 majority in Parliament and used that majority to shamefully dismiss a Chief Justice, defend a person as unworthy as Dilan Perera by defeating the vote of No Confidence that was brought against him, and pass the 18th Amendment cannot use that  majority even once for a purpose that would be immensely  beneficial to the country such as the repeal of the 13th Amendment and the abolition in its entirety of  the Provincial Council system is one that defies the imagination. 

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