Ex-CM: PCs can conduct polls if govt. puts them off further


Naseer Ahamed

Former Eastern Province Chief Minister Naseer Ahamed yesterday said that if the government made an attempt to put off provincial council (PC) polls, scheduled for later this year, the PCs could take over the task of conducting them under the provisions of PC Elections Act No 2 of 1988.

Declaring that it was one of the options available to PCs, Ahamed said since the government had miserably failed in discharging its duties under the provisions of the Act, the PCs should assert their constitutional rights for the sake of the people to safeguard their right to vote. The neighbouring India would provide ample precedents and models, he said.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the former EP CM: Three of the Provincial Councils, namely; Eastern, North Central and Sabaragamuwa ceased to function in the Month of September 2017 the expiration of the term for which these councils were established after election in 2012. According to provisions of Provincial Councils Election Act (No 02 of 1988) within one week of the dissolution of a Provincial Council the Commissioner of Election (now Election Commission) shall publish a notice of his intention to hold an election to the council. On the fourteenth day after the publication of such notice the nomination period should commence and it shall expire on the twenty first day. The date of Poll shall not be less than five weeks and more than eight weeks from the date of publication of the Notice. Hence, the process of election of new councilors to the three concerned Councils should have been completed by the first week of December 2017.

Failure of the Government to meet these deadlines and its legal obligations resulted in taking over of administration of the three councils by their respective Governors; the representative of the President. We heard lot of political rhetoric since then but the date of election to the councils under reference is still far from certainty.

The consequences of delaying Provincial Election is undoubtedly synonymous with the suppression of the Sovereignty of the people living in the province. Can anything worse than this happen in a democracy? Explanations given by the authorities for the delay are mere lame excuses in the context of judicial interpretation which means to say that for no reason any election due in the process should be postponed because it is tantamount to denial of the sovereign right of the people.

The synergy of all explanations such as the need to conduct Provincial Polls on one day, increasing women representation, introduction of a mixed electoral system, delimitation, etc is nothing more than delaying tactics. Ironically, present Government boasts itself as pro devolution and asserts power sharing as a political solution to the ethnic problem prevailing in the country for more than seven decades. But by delaying provincial election specifically in the Eastern Province the Centre has effectively rescinded even limited powers devolved to the Province under 13th Amendment to the constitution.

The Government has to be mindful of the fact that ours is a very matured democracy and voters have used their right to vote with wisdom judging by the voting patterns over the years. It is said public opinion is like a ghost. It is neither visible nor audible. I view the results of the last Local Government election as a backlash of the electorate against delaying LG election by nearly three years by the Government. It is not inappropriate to mention the consequences of conducting a Referendum to postpone Parliamentary election in 1983.

Suppression of the sovereignty of the people by delaying LG and Provincial elections is only the tip of the iceberg. The malaise of governing by the elite since 1970s is now disgustingly deep seated overarching and undermining the democracy and it has already become a guided and controlled democracy. Taking over of the power of governing by a small group of elite immediately after an election and carrying on in their own style ignoring the view of the very same public who voted them to Parliament or Presidency is today mainstay of democratic and representative governing in Sri Lanka. Provincial Councils should rise to stem further spreading and strengthening of this crippling malady and protect the democratic rights of their people.

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