Collective call to make Provincial Councils meaningful

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2017-05-08

A collective call has been made to President Maithripala Sirisena to devolve more power to Provincial Councils and make them meaningful by Chief Ministers of all nine Provinces at the 33rd Convention of Chief Ministers.

The Convention was held with the participation of the Chief Ministers of the nine provinces including Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana last Saturday (6).

It was interesting to note the unstinted unity of the Chief Ministers voicing together to devolve more power to Provincial Councils.
The Provincial Council system which came into effect following the signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord remains as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

With fervent calls made by the Chief Ministers of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to devolve more power to Provincial Councils, the general impression prevails that Chief Ministers of the Northern and Eastern Provinces are particular about devolving more power to the two provinces which would be a challenge to the unity and integrity of the country.

However, realizing the significance of Provincial Councils and the necessity to make them vibrant, all nine Chief Ministers have emphasized the need to devolve power to the nine Provinces.

The views expressed by the Chief Ministers at the Habarana Convention clearly highlight that despite the introduction of the Provincial Council system as a measure to devolve more power to the provinces in the country, the system hardly remains effective as far as administration on crucial issues such as Police powers and land powers are concerned.

The North and East Chief Ministers have already indicated that their hands were tied as far as resolving various post-war humanitarian problems including land issues in the two provinces.

From the views expressed by the Chief Ministers unanimously urging more power to be devolved to Provincial Councils, it is clear that Provincial Councils remain without adequate power and exist merely as symbolic bodies under the 13th Amendment.

The Chief Ministers pointed out that as a result of not having adequate power, Provincial Councils were losing significance. They also brought to the notice of the President that power meant for devolution remained mostly with the Central Government.

Northern Province Chief Minister, C .V. Wigneswaran making a stark pointer told the President that Rs 1,500 million allocated to the Northern Provincial Council by the Central Government last year, had not yet reached the Council.

Despite introducing the Provincial Council system, to reap the benefits of power being devolved to all nine provinces in the island, to make the democratic system more vibrant by strengthening peace and reconciliation, the strife had aggravated further with Provincial Councils in the Northern and Eastern Provinces being defunct.

As the ruthless war continuing for nearly thirty years aggravating from the time the Provincial Council system was introduced, the Central Government taking a firm stance in restricting power to the provinces and converging power to the centre, remained inevitable to deal with one of the most ruthless militant outfits in the world, the LTTE.

However, it is high time the Provincial Council system was revived in a meaningful manner with power meant for provinces under the 13th Amendment.
While urging to devolve more power, the Northern and Eastern Provinces even urge to go beyond the 13th Amendment to make power-sharing between the Centre and the provinces more effective and meaningful.

The convening of the Chief Ministers at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana has clearly indicated that the Provincial Council system in the country has to go a long way, to prove itself effective and the Chief Ministers have done their part standing above political differences emphasizing the need to devolve power extensively, to make Provincial Councils meaningful.

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