“It may not be possible sometimes to hold elections for all 9 provinces on a single day. It could change according to political power exchange in various provincial councils. Our belief is that there shouldn’t be a distortion of holding elections to 6 different provinces within two years. The experience in our country is that the power of provincial councils depends on who is in power in the central government. However, the distortion that occurred during Rajapaksa regime should be stopped,” said the National Organizer of the JVP Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka MP.
He said this speaking at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP yesterday (21st). The Member of the Central Committee of the JVP Comrade Dr Nalinda Jayatissa MP too was present.
Speaking further Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka said, “The Provincial Council Elections Amendment Bill that was presented to parliament yesterday was passed with a 2/3rd majority. As a result, there would be an effective change in the electoral process. There would be a difference in the day the election is held. We, of the JVP, maintained a certain stand regarding holding provincial council elections. We told our stand to the country. Holding provincial council elections on a mixed system of first-past-the-post and the proportional system has been discussed with the agreement of 95% of the political parties at the Constitutional Council. Our stand too is that the provincial council elections should be held on a single day.
We have experienced the villainous and dictatorial politics of Rajapaksa regime for 8 years. Also, it is not necessary to hold local government elections and provincial council elections according to two different systems. The provincial council elections need not be held like telecasting episodes in a mega teledrama. During Mahinda Rajapaksa regime the elections for 9 provinces were held at different times. Also, the elections were held with total state patronage utilizing state resources, state machinery, public funds and by distributing goods to the voters. The elections for the Eastern, North – Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces were held on 23rd August 2007. On 14th February 2009, the elections for North – West and Central provinces were held. The election for the Western Province was held on 25th April 2009. The war ended on 19th May 2009. Rajapaksa, without considering the national security at a time a decisive war was being fought, held the elections intermittently in a bid to satisfy his power hunger.
An election was held after completing the Thoppigala operation. Another election was held after the Vidattaltivu operation and another election after the Killinochchi battle. After each operation, an election was held jeopardizing national security. Provincial councils splintered out as if they were hit by a multi-barrel rocket. 6 elections were held within 15 months when the series of provincial council elections began in May 2008. After the war on 21st September 2013, the elections for Central, Northern and North Eastern provinces were held. On 29th March 2014, the election for the Western and Southern provinces and on the 20th September 2014 the election for Uva Province was held. Within two years 6 rounds of elections were held. It would have been justifiable if the elections were held after the terms of the councils were over. Certain provincial councils were dissolved after 3 years and two months. Many had their elections after 4 years. Rajapaksa held provincial council elections intermittently to strengthen his power base. Goods were distributed spending a large amount of public money. Shasheendra Rajapaksa, who contested the Uva Province, had a fleet of 20 white defender vehicles for his transport during the election campaigns. Public resources and assets were widely misused.
When 5 rounds of elections are held within two years no minister can have time for any other work. Their time was completely spent for elections. Hence, it was a total distortion. This distortion should be ended. Hitler too held such elections during the 1931 – 33 period. Having so many elections within a short period was an advantage to the government. However, it was a difficult task for political parties of the opposition. Hence, this distortion should have been changed.
Now, the serious question is holding provincial elections. As such, the government should take measures to hold provincial council elections. Also, the provincial council election should be held on a single day. The government should specifically declare the date the election is to be held. We proposed that provincial council elections should be held within one year of the adaptation of the Bill.
We proposed that the provincial council election should be held within one year after the Bill is adopted. There were practical difficulties due to a court order that the 20th amendment needed a referendum. The Provincial Council Elections Amendment Bill had been entered into the agenda on the 26th and party leaders had agreed to adopt it in September. In the Constitutional Council too there was such a policy agreement. The Bill would allow the ‘mixed’ system of first past the post and the proportional system to be used in the provincial council elections as well. Also, the preferential system would be abolished. The representation of women would increase. There are several democratic reforms in the Bill. However, the manner it was presented to parliament is an issue.
Despite the government attempting to show that the reason for bringing the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Bill was to increase representation of women, the real intention of the government was to postpone provincial council election. However, after considering the favourable points in the Bill we, instead of voting for it, handed over a programme to the government with a timetable to hold the elections quickly. Already, the Local Government Amendment Bill has been passed. However, the Municipal Councils Ordinance, the Urban Councils Ordinance and the Pradeshiya Sabhas Act have to be amended as the number of councillors has increased. After the amendments, the gazette has to be issued within two weeks. As such, the JVP presented a programme with a time frame in which the elections have to be held in December or January.
On 11th September, the gazette announcing amendments to Municipal Councils Ordinance and the Urban Councils Ordinance has been issued. After two weeks on 25th September, the bills would be entered into the Parliamentary agenda. The next Parliamentary day after 25th September would be 3rd October. Hence, we have proposed to hold a special Parliamentary day between 25th September and 3rd October to present the three Bills to Parliament. Subsequently, any person having any issue regarding the three bills could seek action from Supreme Court. If there is no legal process we have proposed that the bills could be passed on 9th October – the first parliamentary day that comes after 3rd October. If anyone goes to Court the legal process would need three weeks. If we consider that court order would be received on 24th October, the three Bills could be passed after this date. Then the gazette to hold the election could be issued in the first week of November. Once the gazette is issued the Elections Commission could, after considering the prevailing conditions, hold the Provincial Council Elections in December or January. As such, the government should compulsorily implement this time frame. We have presented a programme with a time frame to prevent the Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils coming out with various excuses.
Also, as there would be an electoral change due to the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Bill when it is adopted delimitation process has to be carried out. This could be completed by the end of April. Then the Provincial Council Elections could be held in July. Despite there is no issue regarding the content of the Bill, the manner it was presented in parliament was against tradition. The government could have discussed with political parties before the bill was presented to parliament. Despite the government had plans to protect SAITM, sell ports, and plunder, it doesn’t have a plan to hold elections.