International

Sri Lankan government ruled out early provincial council elections

By PTI

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has said the long-pending provincial council elections in all nine of its provinces will not be possible until the 2017 Act is amended in Parliament.

Provincial elections have been postponed since 2017 because the then government (United National Party) first wanted to improve the process by introducing a new hybrid system of proportional representation from the past and the current system of proportional representation.

The 2017 Act will have to be amended after Parliament in 2018 rejected the delimitation report that should have been approved with a two-thirds majority to make the new hybrid system legal.

Provincial council elections for the nine provinces will not be possible unless the Act is amended in Parliament, the attorney general has informed the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms, its chairman and education minister Dinesh Gunavardhan said.

Responding to Tamil minority parties’ remarks that Indian pressure caused the government to revisit the issue, External Affairs Minister GL Peiris denied that “there was no pressure from India”.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told the select committee on Friday that he expects elections to be possible in the first quarter of next year following amendments to proportional representation.

Proportional Representation Return to the representation system, which was followed until the former Maithripala Sirisena – in 2017 the Ranil Wickremesinghe government amended election laws to move to a mixed-member proportional representation electoral system based on the delimitation exercise.

The issue of stalling of provincial elections was highlighted last week when India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised the issue in his official engagements.

The Indian statement on the foreign secretary’s visit said, “Shringla reiterated India’s position on the full implementation of the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, including devolution of powers and holding elections to the Provincial Council at the earliest.”

Provincial councils were added to Sri Lankan laws as a result of direct Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority issue.

India proposed a province-based devolution in the context of the 1987 Indo-Lanka peace agreement under the then Indian Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi.

India has been advocating for early elections for all nine provinces, which have been stalled since 2018.

In March, at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, India insisted that Sri Lanka needed to hold provincial elections at the earliest.

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