The UNP, the SLFP faction allied to the UNP, the Tamil National Alliance, the JVP and other yahapalana conspirators acting in concert have introduced changes to the provincial councils elections law in order to indefinitely postpone PC elections. Even though they tried earlier to introduce a constitutional amendment to extend the terms of the existing provincial councils without holding elections, that move failed because the Supreme Court determined that such a constitutional amendment would require a referendum in addition to a two thirds majority in Parliament. Now all provincial councils will stand automatically dissolved in terms of Article 154E of the Constitution as they complete their five year terms. The Sabaragamauwa, North Central and Eastern provinces are to stand dissolved in a few days time. The other PCs will stand dissolved at various times in 2018 and 2019.
Though the dissolution of the provincial councils will take place as scheduled, the latest changes to the provincial councils elections law will enable the government to indefinitely delay elections to the PCs on the excuse that constituencies need to be demarcated. This was the same excuse this government used to postpone the elections to the local government bodies which have now been delayed by over two and a half years. This government has stood the law making process on its head in their attempt to avoid holding elections. Amendments to Bills at the committee stage in Parliament are brought only to make minor technical changes to facilitate the passage of the Bill. But in the past few days, the government has used committee stage amendments (introduced to Bills brought for a completely different purpose) to change the system of election to local government institutions and the provincial councils.
Such gross abuse of the law making process has never before been experienced in this country. The government brought 31 pages of new amendments to completely change the PC elections system at the committee stage to a Bill less than one and a half pages in length introduced to increase women’s representation in the provincial councils. The manner in which they changed the provincial councils election system with just days to go for the automatic dissolution of the first three provincial councils shows that they will do anything to avoid holding elections. When some political parties said that they will not vote for these amendments unless the proportion of representatives elected on the proportional representation principle are increased from 40% to 50%, the government agreed to that literally on the floor of the house.
However, when the government changed the system of election to local government bodies just days ago, the proportion of representatives elected on the proportional representation principle was fixed at 40%. Now there is a mismatch between the system of election to the local government bodies and the provincial councils. Changes are being made to the election laws without any guiding principles. These hasty and ad hoc changes to the election laws are placing the very edifice of representative democracy in this country in grave danger.
The Eastern Provincial Council will be among the first three PCs to stand dissolved. Thereafter there will be no elected local government bodies or a provincial council in the East. Back in 2008 with the war still raging in the Vanni, my government held elections to local government institutions in the East in March 2008 and followed up by holding the first election to the Eastern Provincial Council in May 2008 because it was vital to introduce democracy and normalcy to that region after liberating the province from the LTTE. A little over a decade ago, there were no local government institutions or a provincial council functioning in the East because of the terrorists. Now there are no local government bodies in the East and elsewhere as well and the existing provincial councils are to go into oblivion one by one because of the yahapalana government.
Even the JVP’s ban on elections in 1988/89 and the LTTE’s terrorism over three decades was never able to bring the electoral process in this country to a complete halt the way the present government has. This government has also openly insulted the judiciary and flouted the Constitution by introducing changes to the provincial councils election law through the back door when the Supreme Court had given a clear ruling that the extension of the terms of the provincial councils or a postponement of elections would require a referendum in addition to a two thirds majority in Parliament. The people should unite and organize to oppose this attempt to destroy the democratic institutions in this country.
Former President of Sri Lanka