By R.M.B Senanayake –
The Government and the Northern Provincial Council have got off to a good start displaying much goodwill to each other. It is now necessary to make the Northern Provincial Council work. All persons who wish peace and good governance will be happy indeed. But there are several obstacles and challenges that have to be ironed out if the Northern Provincial Council is to function in a manner that will fulfill the expectation of the people of the North and make them willingly give up the demand for a separate state put forward by the Tamil Expatriates.
There are several clauses in the 13th Amendment which could be interpreted in more than one way For example the 13th Amendment says that the Executive power of the Provincial Council shall be exercised by the Governor either directly or through the Ministers of the Board of Ministers or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the article 154F of the Constitution. If the Governor wishes to exercise power on his own initiative there could well be differences of opinion and even conflict. Such a situation arose in the Amparai District with regard to teacher transfers where the Governor on the advice of the Member of Parliament for the District allegedly reversed the orders of the Provincial Council Minster in charge of the subject. One hopes that such conflicts will not arise in the functioning of the Northern Provincial Council.
Another provision in the 13th Amendment is with respect to the allocation of moneys to the Provincial Councils. The 13th Amendment provides for a Finance Commission which includes the representatives of the Provincial Councils. The relevant article of the Constitution states is as follows:
154R. (1) There shall be a Finance Commission consisting of –
(a) the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka;
(b) the Secretary to the Treasury; and
(3) The Government shall, on the recommendation of and in consultation with, the
Commission, allocate from the Annual Budget, such funds as are adequate for the
purpose of meeting the needs of the Provinces.
(4) It shall be the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as
(a) the principles on which such funds are granted annually by the Government for the
use of Provinces, should be apportioned between various Provinces; and,
(b) any other matter referred to the Commission by the President relating to Provincial
One hopes the Budget for 2014 which will be tabled in Parliament next month will include the allocation of funds to the Provincial Councils along with the Recommendations of the Finance Commission as provided for in the 13th Amendment.
Appendix ii of the 13th Amendment refers to Land and Land Settlement. It states that state lands will be vested in the Republic but there are constitutional provisions regarding land use and land alienation where the President and the Provincial Council are to be guided by the Land policy established by the National Land Commission. So it is essential to establish the National Land Commission and the Technical Secretariat to service the Commission as provided in the 13th Amendment. Land laws in our country are complex and require experts to deal with the subject. There is also the vexed question of the needs of the Army to establish camps in the North. While the Army has a right to establish camps anywhere in the Island yet yet the local population needs reassurance that the Army will not interfere in the day to day life of the citizens and that they can enjoy the same degree of freedom as those in the South. The Army must follow the same pattern of conduct as in the South.
The recent decision of the Supreme Court that all land belongs to the state which is treated as equivalent to the Central Government makes it urgently necessary to appoint the National Land Commission. These institutions are the channel through which consultation and co-operation is to be ensured in the functioning of the Provincial Councils and they cannot be deferred any further.
If the Tamils are to willingly give up the demand for a separate state they must feel that their freedom and rights are safeguarded .