Attempts to transform PCs into Provincial Govts
By Denagama Dhammika Ranaweera
Governor of the Southern Province Dr. Hemakumara Nanayakkara says people voted for the government to protect the territorial integrity of the country and not to break it up. "People sacrificed their lives on behalf of the territorial integrity of the country. A group including the Chief Minister and the Opposition Leader of the Northern Province are trying to break up this unity".
?: Can you explain briefly the responsibilities of the Governor of a Provincial Council?
A: The Governor has the responsibilities that the President has assigned to him. As the President finds it difficult to work in all the nine provinces, the Governor has been appointed as his direct representative. The Governor has to take on the total responsibility of finances at the Provincial Council. If the administration of finances is improper it is the responsibility of the Governor to correct that subsequent to a review and investigation. Apart from the General Secretary, all other secretaries of the Provincial Council are appointed by the Governor. If there are problems in a ministry, the Governor can intervene. The Governor has to have a close relationship with the ministers.
?: What is your opinion about the proposal that a Governor will simply be in name only in the new Constitution?
A: That is a strategy of those who want to break the territorial integrity of the country. There are a few individuals in Parliament who are attempting to make the country Federal State. There are also henchmen of these parliamentarians.
?: Who are they?
A: There is a group that receives advantages including funds from international non-governmental organizations. The Centre for Policy Alternatives is also involved. Jayampathy Wickremaratne who was removed from the Sama Samaja Party and entered Parliament through the National List of the UNP is trying to break up the strength of a unitary State. I feel that they are trying to transform Provincial Councils into Provincial Governments.
People voted for the government to protect the territorial integrity of the country and not to break it up. I saw in the newspapers that as a result, there is no need of a new Constitution and only reforms are adequate. This is a strong decision taken by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). What is being attempted by pruning the powers of the Governor who is the President's representative and is engaged in the powerful role of protecting the territorial integrity of the country is to get rid of the unity.
People sacrificed their lives on behalf of the territorial integrity of the country. A group including the Chief Minister and the Opposition Leader of the Northern Province are trying to break up this unity. A group including Pakiyasothy, Guruge and Edirisinghes are trying to break up the unitary State. They invited the Chief Ministers to big hotels in Negombo and gave them a poisonous tablet covered in honey. They said that when the Governors' powers are pruned they will be assigned to the Chief Minister. It has been proposed to appoint the Governor based on the opinion of the Chief Minister. If a law is brought to that effect, the Chief Minister's wife or husband can be appointed to the post. This is the climax of a long-term procedure.
?: The Development (Special Provisions) Bill is being rejected by Provincial Councils. What do you think is the reason for this?
A: There is an opinion in Provincial Councils that through this Bill, power will concentrate in one place. They think that it will harm the Provincial Councils. That is the reason for the rejection. I will not talk about it at length as a Governor. There are several opinions within the coalition government too. The Development Bill would have been proposed with good intentions and possibly to speed up the development of the country. However, it seems as if the powers that were assigned to Provincial Councils are being taken back by the government. Everyone in this country, as they do not have a proper knowledge and information about it talk about it as if power is going to be divided in certain places. A symmetrical division of power was carried out through by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Power cannot be allocated asymmetrically based on a racist foundation. When a proposal to provide more power to the North and East was submitted, we opposed it.
Now power has been devolved. However, administration has not been decentralized. There is a shortage of officials who can work in Tamil in the North and East. This is a grave mistake. We can train interpreters in six months.
?: There are accusations that from time to time administrators are grabbing the powers that have been assigned to Provincial Councils. What is the truth about this?
A: No government has made any attempt to grab the power of Provincial Councils. Sufficient money is allocated to Provincial Councils. However, when money was allocated during the last time, we could not agree with the system followed.
?: What is the system that you are not agreeable to?
A: The official who provides accounts is the General Secretary of the Provincial Council. Therefore, the General Secretary should receive the financial provision directly from the government. There is no need to go from ministry to ministry to provide the money. Due to irregular procedures, when the work at Provincial Councils is carried out with the government certain chaotic situations arise. It is to avoid these situations that a powerful Governor is required.
My proposal is that the powers assigned to a Governor should be increased further. Such powers are required for the territorial integrity of the country and to carry out financial matters with transparency. Provincial Governors in India have been assigned more powers than the Governors in Sri Lanka.
?: There was an accusation sometime back that Provincial Councils were white elephants. According to your experience, is this true?
A: We have not obtained the usage we should have from Provincial Councils. On the influence of India, politicians such as J. R. Jayewardene and Gamini Dissanayake engaged in discussions and introduced this system. A group including Ranasinghe Premadasa, and Lalith Athulathmudali opposed the system based on justifiable reasons. Even though the Provincial Council is not a white elephant, there are methods to reduce their expenditure. The Provincial Governors Forum is ready to propose this to the President in the near future. We are responsible only to the President. However, we will not be doing so without consulting the Prime Minister. However, according to the Constitution we are responsible only to the President.
?: How can you reduce the expenditure of Provincial Councils?
A: There are many methods to reduce the government's expenditure too. Today, even a small matter is attended to subsequent to a huge function held at a big hotel. Millions of rupees are being spent on such functions. This is a very serious crime. The foreign training required should also be sorted out. I, of course do not permit anyone to engage in foreign trips under the guise of overseas training. We received a circular regarding this from the President's Secretary too.
?: Three decades have passed since Provincial Councils were established. However, what we hear often is that the objective of establishing Provincial Councils has not proved to be successful?
A: I believe that the objectives have been won over to a great extent. There are things that we have not achieved too. We have a concurrent list. Powers are assigned to the government as well as the Provincial Councils. As a result, there are many hindrances for Provincial Councils to become active. Therefore we proposed that the proper tasks of the Provincial Councils be assigned to the PCs and the proper tasks of the government should be retained by the government. However, these proposals suggest that above this concurrent list there should be a board which has special powers. If any wrongdoing is taking place in any institution, any people's representative or citizen should have the right to complain to that board.
?: Do you see that the two main parties in the unity government are engaged in a cold war?
A: It is unfortunate that certain people express views that the national government will break up. It was possible to establish democracy in the country because these two parties joined together.
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