Several allies of the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) have decided to continue their campaign to pressure President Mahinda Rajapaksa to abrogate the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, by using the two-thirds majority in Parliament, Daily Mirror learns. The Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) have started a public campaign against the 13th Amendment. The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) led by Minister Dinesh Gunawardane has also decided to prevail upon the government in this regard.
Minister Gunawardena told Daily Mirror his party foresaw the consequences of this piece of legislation introduced in 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Accord giving birth to the provincial councils, which have become white elephants.
“This is a hastily prepared piece of legislation. The provincial councils are useless. They waste public funds. We have to do away with this system at least now,” he said. “In Sri Lanka, even education and health have been devolved to the provinces. These are two crucial subjects, which need to be handled by the central government to develop a country. We are witnessing the repercussions of leaving such powers in the hands of the provincial councils.
Asked whether he would carry out a public campaign, the minister said that his party would first discuss the matter with the government.
“We have written to the government on several occasions. We will take it up again. The government has a two-third majority in Parliament. It can be used to abrogate the 13th Amendment,” he said.
The MEP is an ally of the ruling coalition with three parliamentary seats. Digamadulla district MP Sriyani Wijewickrema and Deputy Minister Geethanjana Gunawardane are the two others.
He said that instead of the provincial councils a district council system could be set up to implement and co-ordinate development work.
“The Pradeshiya Sabhas and Urban Councils should be strengthened,” the minister said.
Referring to the Indo-Lanka Accord, he said though the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi played a role in introducing this law here, there are village-based administrative bodies set up in India to carry out grassroots level development activities.
The minister said the MEP wants the cultural and linguistic concerns of people in the North addressed. (Kelum Bandara)