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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2618

JHU opposes Provincial Council system, but supports Gram-raj

Colombo, 21 August, (Asiantribune.com): The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the introduction of the provincial Council system was done with the brute force of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). When those amendments were introduced in the constitution, the referendum was not there. We need some referendum to ratify these kinds of things. That is why we are totally against the provincial council system, because this has not been approved by the people of the country in a referendum.Minister Champika Ranawaka: Narayanan has failed to read the new paradigm and the paradigm shift that happened in 2005. Minister Champika Ranawaka: Narayanan has failed to read the new paradigm and the paradigm shift that happened in 2005.

The Minister Champika Ranawaka said that JHU opposes the present Provincial Council system and wishes to introduce Gram-raj system in the country to decentralize and devolve the power and administration to the grassroots level. This is similar to the ‘Panchayat system,’ being practiced in India.

On the India’s National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan’s recent remark, Minister Champika Ranawaka said Narayanan has failed to read the new paradigm and the paradigm shift that happened in 2005. Before 2005, in fact before the last presidential election, there was a dichotomy - the political solution and the military solution. That kind of dichotomy was based on one hypothesis that is Tamils as a nation. Tamils as a suppressed nation and has the right for self-determination and this kind of hypothesis has been rejected in the Mahinda Chinthana.

Here is the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribune had with Champika Ranawaka - Minister of Environment and Natural Resources:

Asian Tribune: There is a news report to say that JHU is opposing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Is it correct?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: No, that is not the position. It has been recorded that the APRC has decided to implement the 13th amendment in full in toto. But our position is that no such decision is made at the APRC. The only thing that has been agreed is to the endeavor to implement of 13th amendment and we have to search for a final solution based on political consensus.

Asian Tribune: Do you have any solutions in other words, any proposals regarding this issue?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: No …no, we have proposed a system that is based on the ‘Gram-raj’, that is to decentralize and devolve the power and administration to the grassroots level. This is similar to the ‘Panchayat system,’ being practiced in India. We proposed that kind of system, because the Gram-raj system was practiced in Sri Lanka and even the British colonialists did not abolish this system because it is very much inherited from our culture and also it has been practiced for few centuries and uprooting of this kind of a system is very detrimental to the society, as well as tothe polity of this country.

Asian Tribune: Yes what do you mean by this Gram-raj system?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Gram- Raj, that is to devolve power. Ando decentralize power into a smallest possible unit. That unit may be demarcated by looking into various parameters. One such parameter would be culture, population and the resource, geography and all those factors should be considered to demarcate new local government unit. We should devolve power to those kind of units, unless otherwise the systems like Provincial Councils or District Councils are a waste of money, waste if resources and lot of administrations problems too are there. So, thing is that, if we want to solve those administration problems, as well as cultural and other problems, only if we come forward to devolve power at the grassroots level.

Asian Tribune: That means that you wants to reintroduce the village council systems that was abolished in the latter part of the 70s.

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Yes, Village Councils should be empowered.

Asian Tribue: Then again we have to come up with new proposals and new regulations and all these things?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Yes the present Parliamentary system must also be changed, with minor changes with the Executive Presidency, and we propose that there should only be one election, to elect the President or to elect the Parliament or to elect the village level or the local government level representatives. So only one election. We have proposed this to APRC.

Asian Tribune: We think that your entire proposal warrants a change in the present constitution. And we want 2/3 majority in the Parliament?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Not to introduce such a system. We don’t need 2/3 majority, but we only need to amend the Local Government Act and to empower the delimitation Commission to demarcate proper units representing their capacity to devolve. Their cultural identity to be preserved. Do you know that the Provincial Councils boundaries, District Council boundaries and the Local Government bodies boundaries – all those were demarcated by the British colonials to collect taxes. But, no scientific base for those geographical units is there. What we need is some scientific base to demarcate such units.

Asian Tribune: The electoral delimitation commission is used to be done by our own people?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Yes, but those factors are not being considered. So that commission should be empowered to look after these aspects as well and change the local government authorities’ boundaries.

Asian Tribune: Is this the permanent solution you are proposing?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: I think the various demands are there. Tamils and Tamil’s parties are generally agitated that the North and East provinces be amalgamated and more powers should be vested, with the 13 Amendment ++maybe vested with these provinces, maybe quasi-federal or con-federal type of government should be introduced in Sri Lanka. But the people are totally against that.

The 13th Amendment, the so called 13th Amendment and the introduction of the provincial council actually was introduced in Sri Lanka with the brute force of Indian Peace Keeping Force (PKF) and then UNP government so called fighting the majority, but the so the referendum was not there. We need some referendum to ratify these kinds of things. That is why we are totally against the provincial council. Because this has not been approved by the people.

Asian Tribune: Whatever said and done, this provincial council system is there for the last 20 years since 1989. There is a popular belief that it has come to stay forever ?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Practice reveal that it is a waste of time and waste of resources. Also lot of administration problems are there and the provincial council system is a total failure.

Asian Tribune: As a temporary solution to all these problems, do you have any proposals?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Yes, the problem is that any solutions should be based on majority consensus and it should be approved in a referendum, because otherwise any solution that is forced on people will not work.

Asian Tribune: Policy wise it is ok, but there is an issue of practicability?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: Yes, but any proposal has to have to majority’s approval.

Asian Tribune: I take this opportunity ask you about Mr. M.K. Narayananm the National Security Advisor of the Government of India, who in an interview with a newspaper in Malyasia has said that Sri Lanka government has no support of the Tamils?

Minister Champika Ranawaka: I think that he misinterprets what is happening here in Sri Lanka. Paradigm shift has been happening in Sri Lanka. Before 2005, before the Presidential Election, there was a dichotomy - the political solution and the military solution. That kind of dichotomy was based on one hypothesis that is Tamils as a nation. Tamils as a suppressed nation has the right for self-determination and this kind of hypothesis has been rejected in the Mahinda Chinthana. The submission is that there is no such ethnic problem here in Sri Lanka and there is no way for the homeland in north and east. And the whole Sri Lanka is a homeland for every citizens of the country.

Based on that, the so called political solution, the military solution, the dichotomy does not exist.

The new three dimensional approach was been actually introduced.

• The first is demilitarization.
• The second is democratization and
• The third is development.

That type of 3D solutions has been introduced and is being practiced now. You know that the demilitarization phase in the eastern province has been finished.

Democratization phase also being partially finished with the local authority elections and the provincial council election and the general election will be held in the Eastern province in the course of time.

The developmental phase, the reawakening of the eastern province, the development projects that is costing over SLR166 billions is being now focused.

So the similar thing will happen in the Northern Province as well.

Demilitarization phase is in focus, the democratization phase will be proceeded and the development phase will be followed, right? What matters is that Mr. Narayan could not clearly read the new paradigm and the paradigm shift that happened in 2005.

- Asian Tribune -

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