By S. Akurugoda
According to media reports, a group called National Committee to campaign for the devolution of powers to Provincial Councils (PCs) have been formed and its inaugural meeting was held two weeks ago at the Mahawali Centre Auditorium. As per the report, the group had already commenced an island-wide program to ‘educate’ the general public on the devolution of power under the 13th Amendment.
The Minister representing UNP (D), who was campaigning for federalism throughout his political career and one of the leading campaigner against Mahinda Chinthanaya during the last Presidential election, is of the view that the government would vest police, land and education powers in the PCs (as recommended by his party group) and a major breakthrough could be achieved through power-sharing and devolution. He also believes that full implementation of the existing Constitutional provisions is a ‘starting point’ and no MP can oppose the vesting of those powers to PCs since the MPs have taken oaths to safeguard the constitution.
According to the leader of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party, fully implementation of the 13th Amendment is ‘only an interim measure’ until the APRC presents ‘more substantial proposals’ for power-sharing in the future.
Another Minister who campaigned for Chandrika’s failed devolution package, P-TOMS etc and reported to have had strong links with the infamous NGOs during the last regime had his doubt about the adequacy of the devolution vested under 13th Amendment of the Constitution.
Whenever the security forces are about to find the ‘solution to the problem’ with the fullest support of the general public, unilateral ceasefire, cry for devolution as a ‘starting point’, ‘interim measures’, ‘more devolution’ etc come as usual with the blessing of the same group of people under the guise of ‘educating’ people.
As far as the implementation of the 13th Amendment is concerned, it appears that the above group is either ignorant of the extent of powers already vested to the provincial councils or wilfully exploiting the situation to promote a hidden agenda of NGOs appears to be behind the campaign.
For example, as we understand, the education powers have already been vested with PCs and provincial education departments and ministries are functioning under provincial education ministers. The entire administration of schools within provinces is now under the said provincial ministers except the National Schools.
Although the police and land powers have not been vested officially, the Chief Ministers and politicos in those provinces said to have already taken over some of the functions unofficially using their all mighty political powers. It is also said that in some provinces, transfer of police officers above the rank of inspectors cannot be done without the ‘unofficial approval’ from the Chief Ministers and those politicos.
In fact, the general consensus among the general public is that the existing PCs have added another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy to an already inefficient administrative system, created avenues for corruptions to already corrupted politicians.
For example, to get leave approved for a foreign visit, a teacher attached to a public school had to fill up 12 application forms with several copies each (total over 50), get the approval first from the school principal, secondly from the regional education office, thirdly from the department of education of the province, fourthly from the education Ministry of the province and finally from the Governor of the province. Not to mention the corruption involved in the process. It is also said that a transfer of a teacher from a provincial school to a national school has almost become an impossible task because of the rigorous procedures that has to be followed, because of the high level of bureaucracy and corruptions.
The UNP's Chief Ministerial (CM) candidate for the North Central Provincial Council complained to the Supreme Court and asked for at least ten back up vehicles, ten uniformed police officers, with automatic weapons for outer-range back up security, and ten uniformed commandos with automatic weapons for close-range security back up. It is said that a similar security arrangement is already provided for the UPFA CM candidate.
According to UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate Berty Premalal Dissanayake’s statement appeared in Daily News dated 15th July 2008, defending the critics’ claim that the government was wasting Rs.400 million on an unnecessary election, the cost would be at least 600million if the election were held next year! The mere statement of cost expressed by the CM candidate is an example of the cost of lections to PCs.
The ordinary people of the country had to bear all the above cost of politicos and the PCs in addition to those of the Central Government including its jumbo Cabinet despite the rising cost of living.
In 1987, when the ‘solution to the problem’ was about to be reached, the PCs was introduced with the full blessing of the very same people and the ‘solution to the problem’ was prevented forcefully by other interested parties who do not want to see a stabilized and prosperous country in the region. If the security forces were given a chance to find the ‘solution to the problem’ in 1987, by not preventing their operations after Wadamaarachchi, the story would have been entirely different today.
Soon after Chandrika Kumarathunge came to power, several programs funded by the very same NGOs to ‘educate the public’ were launched and it is not the public who were benefited, but the so-called ‘educationist’ themselves since the public is more ‘educated’ than the ‘educationist’ as far as the ‘solution to the problem’ is concerned.
In 2002, once again, when a ‘solution to the problem’ was about to be seen with the Deep Penetration Unit in full swing coinciding with the world uproar against terrorism due to 09/11 attack on US, unilateral ceasefire declared by the outfit (as at today) followed by CFA came in and the ‘solution to the problem’ was aggravated and prevented further with the full blessing of the same group of people.
If the Minister of Construction and Engineering Services is keen in devolving more powers to Provincial Council, as per his own argument, he may set up an example by advising the President to assign the powers of his ministry to PCs or by ‘educating’ the people as to why his ministry is required at the Centre and not vested with the PCs since the subjects under his purview are not appearing under the Centre as listed in the 13th Amendment. He could also advise his hardcore ‘devolution’ colleagues who are now in the Cabinet, to give-up the ministerial position immediately leaving room for devolution and power sharing since there is no need to have a jumbo Cabinet at the Centre since powers devolved (or are to be devolved) are enormous as given under the 37 subjects in the List I (and also in the List III – Concurrent List) of the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
If no MP can oppose the vesting of those powers to provincial councils since the MPs have taken oaths to safeguard the constitution as cautioned by the Minister, then on the same token, no MP can complain about the inadequacy of the existing constitution or further devolutions. If there is a need to add or remove certain Articles/Amendments in the Constitution there is a democratic process to do it and oaths said to have been taken by MPs to safeguard the constitution has nothing to do with it.
Although the group’s ultimate limit of devolution and power sharing is not revealed, a Minister has cited Switzerland as his dream model of ‘solution’. Switzerland has a federal constitution with 26 states called cantons. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders army and currency until the establishment of the federal state in 1948.
Majority of countries in the world has unitary system of devolutions though the countries are multiethnic and multi-religious. Many of the non-unitary states of the world are very large in size (with the above mentioned exception of Switzerland), particularly Canada, US, Brazil, India and Australia. Evan most federal states also have unitary lower levels of government. Thus while the United States itself is federal, the US states are themselves unitary, with counties and other municipalities having only the authority given (devolved) to them by the state constitution or legislature.
The public is well aware of the so-called ‘educationist’ and what they have been preaching and doing in the past. The public is also aware ‘where the problem’ is and what the ‘solution’ would be. One can easily conclude that those who are in the forefront of this so-called 'National Committee’ are none other than the same people who were in the forefront of the old 'Anti War Front' funded by the infamous NGOs including Foundation for Coexistence. 'Anti War Front' appeared in stage to ‘educate’ the public on the same subject soon after the security forces commenced their operations to liberate the East. The ‘Anti Ear Front’ could not go far since the general public whom they thought of ‘educating’ were, in fact, fully ‘educated’ and had the necessary experience to be aware of the situation, and supported the security forces to find a ‘solution to the problem’ despite the growing economic and other hardships.
Merely promoting a system, just for the sake of devolution, without considering the historical, cultural, regional and economical aspects would be the stepping stone to more turmoil, unrest and polarization of the various communities in the future and at the end will promote only the interests of those promoters.
- Source: Asian Tribune - http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/12608
Thursday, 07 August 2008