The Socialist Alliance has urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to hold the Provincial Council (PC) polls without further delay.
The Uva and Southern PC elections have been delayed by more than a year. The Northern and North Western PC polls should have been held two years ago, while elections to the Eastern, North Central & Sabaragamuwa PCs are overdue by three years, leaders of the Socialist Alliance, Prof. Tissa Vitarana (LSSP), Dr. G. Weerasinghe (SLCP), Vasudewa Nanayakkara (DLF), Asanka Nawarathne (SLMP) and D. Kalansooriya (DVJP) said in representations made to the premier.
These are a blatant violation of the conditions laid down for the conduct of the PC elections by the Election Commission in terms of the gazette notification dated January 29, 1988 (Provincial Councils Elections Act, No. 2 of 1988). According to the Act, it is mandatory that the process of holding the PC election should start within one week of the dissolution of any PC and be concluded in about two months, the Alliance said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
This gross violation of the Provincial Council Election Act was deliberately committed by the UNP led ‘Yahapalana’ government. In 2017, the previous government moved an amendment to the Provincial Council Act to enable them to delay the holding of the PC election. The active support of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was received for this ‘undemocratic act’, it said.
With the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the November 2019 Presidential Election and the near two-third majority secured soon after by the SLPP to form a government, the expectation was that steps would be taken to have the PC elections soon. This was especially after the safe manner in which the General Election was conducted. However, there appears to be reluctance to hold the PC elections despite the fact that there has been considerable delay after they were dissolved, it further said.
On the basis of the Dinesh Gunawardena Committee Report, one of the reasons given for the delay was the introduction of the mixed electoral system where 70% of the elected representatives were to be chosen on an individual electorate basis, while the balance 30% would be selected on a proportional basis. Some people claim there would be a delay in the process due to delimitation problems, it noted.
But a large number of political parties and the public, including the organization of former representatives of the PCs, have been strongly agitating for early elections to be held. This delay on the part of the government has led to much distraction and criticism by all these organizations, it added.
The letter further said: “Many of these organizations have demanded that the elections should go ahead, if delays are due to the new laws, even on the basis of the earlier proportional representation system, which will have to be re-introduced. There are others who do not want the PC elections to be held until after the introduction of the new Constitution. This is in spite of the legal requirement that the elections have to be held early, within about two months after dissolution.
“There are also some concerns regarding the nature of the new Constitution and the possibility of not holding PC elections or even getting rid of the system altogether. The Left parties, grouped together as the Socialist Alliance, oppose these arguments and takes a firm stand for the holding of the PC election as soon as possible. Even at the time when the JVP threatened to kill the first five voters and the candidates who participated in the first PC election, the parties of the Socialist Alliance defied these threats and went ahead and contested and also voted.
“The members of the Socialist Alliance have stood firm behind the demand for holding PC elections since then as an important step towards protecting the democratic rights of the people.
“The Socialist Alliance wanted the democratic process at the provincial level to be extended by holding elections not only at the level of local government, but also by restoring the Village Council (Grama Sabha) system. Further, the establishment of the PC system with the devolution of power also satisfied the people of the North and the East. This has reduced their movement for separation. The movement within the Tamil-speaking people to have adequate devolution within a unitary state has gathered momentum. Extremist views have fallen to some extent. These satisfactory trends have helped to remove the false notion that devolution would pave the way for separation.
“Another reason given by some for postponing the PC election is the Covid-19 pandemic. This view has been repudiated by the Election Commission. The successful holding of the General Election too has supported this point of view. The government has also called for a return to near normalcy and named it “New normal situation”. The people in general are unhappy with the dominance of the bureaucracy in the public sector due to the non-functioning of the PCs.
“Some bureaucrats not only neglect the people but also abuse the uncontrolled power they have acquired. The claim that bringing back the PCs would add to the economic burden to the country is without any foundation as the expenditure incurred by the elected representatives is estimated to add only about 1% to the total cost. Some members of the Central government try to gain an advantage by not having PCs so that they could abuse those powers as well.
“Under the circumstances, the Socialist Alliance strongly supports the holding of early elections to the PCs and demand that the government respects both the democratic rights as well as the welfare needs of the people. The Alliance favors the rapid introduction of the mixed system of elections, but if this is bound to get delayed, we would even support the introduction of the proportional representation voting system”.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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