By R.M.B Senanayake –
I was wondering why the President is so vehemently opposed to Provincial Councils now when earlier he even talked of the 13th Amendment Plus. Wimal Weerawansa who seems to be proxy tried to whip up popular opposition. But his campaign has tapered off without gathering momentum as I had expected. Why? Is it due to the hard line attitude of the Indian Government?
I think the opposition to the Provincial Councils is due to the fear of the ruling family that such Councils would lead to the emergence of powerful regional or provincial political leaders not only in the North but also in the South. This would constitute a threat to the monopoly of political power (not administrative power) by a few families in the national level. It promotes the dilution of not only administrative power but also political power as people look up to their Chief Minister as a hero if he can deliver what the people want. In India we see the emergence of regional political leaders. Narendra Modi is one such regional leader who is making a bid for the national leadership of the BJP and is most likely to contest the next General Election to the Indian Parliament.
Here in Sri Lank the President faced a formidable provincial leader in Berty Premalal Dissanayake of the North Central Province. Others will emerge when they realize their popularity with the people.
If the Provincial Councils are allowed to function as envisaged in the 13th Amendment with freedom to exercise power then the potential for the emergence of regional political leaders is there. They will then constitute a challenge to any dynastic national political leadership.
I suspect that it is the fear of losing political power rather than the erosion of administrative powers which lead the SLFP leadership to oppose Provincial Councils. But this would have a good result provided the provincial council politicians are not allowed to politicize the administration. The bureaucracy and the police should be restored to their previous pre-1956 status quo. The provincial politicians should be debarred from interfering in day to day decision making and administration. The bureaucrats and the police should be free to act according to the law and good governance practices. If they don’t then they should be held accountable to the Chief Minister and then only should the Chief Minister call upon officials to explain. But even such explanations should be called for only by the Secretary who is the Chief Executive of the Ministry.
Now that the leader of the UNP is also unable to mobilize the people it is better for the entire Opposition to campaign for the restoration of the Independent Commissions for the Public Service, the Police and the Electoral Commission. This is the only way ahead for democracy to be restored in the country.