Provincial Councils in south to fight for devolved powers
[TamilNet, Sunday, 30 November 2003, 10:48 GMT]
Seven Chief Ministers of the Provincial Councils in the country Saturday decided to set up an organization to fight for devolved powers under the 13th Amendment to the constitution, from being taken away by the central government, sources said.
Chief Minister's conference held at Polonnaruwa Saturday decided to request the central government not to interfere with the administration in the provincial councils and to allow them to discharge their administration as defined in the 13th amendment to the constitution. The Chief Ministers of the Southern, Central, Western, North Western, Uva, Sabragamuwa and North central provincial councils (except NorthEast, which is under the direct control of the central government since its dissolution in 1989), attended the conference, sources said.
North Central Provincial Council Chief Minister Mr.Berty Premalal Dissanayake of the ruling United National Party said at a time when the UNF government has been attempting to devolve more powers to regions, it is disheartening to note that steps are being taken to remove the powers devolved on the councils in the spheres of land and judiciary illegally.
Meanwhile Mr.Berty Premalal Dissanayake has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to determine the constitutionality of the ́ Land Ownership Billî of the central government, which was tabled in parliament on November 19. He has cited the Attorney General as the respondent.
Mr.Dissanayake states in his petition that in terms of the Ninth Schedule of the constitution under the 13th amendment, the rights over lands, land tenure, transfer and alienation of land, land use, and land settlement and improvement was a subject of the Provincial Councils. The central government should consult the relevant Provincial Councils in utilizing the State lands within a province.
He further states that the alienation and disposition of the State land within a province to any citizen would be done by the President on the advice of the provincial council.
Although in terms of the Council the "Land Ownership Bill" tabled in parliament by the central government lands minister should be first referred to the provincial councils but this was not done so, he said in his petition.
The provisions of the Bill had ignored Mr.Dissanayake further states that the procedure laid down by the Constitution. This Bill could only be passed by special two-thirds majority.
According to parliamentary sources, the Land Ownership Bill was placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on November 19 and the purpose of it was to provide for the dispersal of ownership of State land to citizens, for removal of certain restrictions attached to grants and transfers of certain restrictions made under the Land Development Ordinance and the Land Grants (special provisions) Act Under the 13th amendment to the constitution.
The provincial council system was introduced in the country in 1988, following the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement by the then President J.R.Jayawardene and then Indian Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. Provincial councils were established in all eight provinces including the NorthEast province in 1988 by popular vote.
Elected provincial councils are in existence in seven provinces in the south where Sinhalese are in majority but not in the Tamil dominated NorthEast province, which was dissolved in 1989 by the then President R.Premadasa. Since then the NE council has been administered by the central government with the Governor who has been appointed by the President as the administrative head of the council with five provincial secretaries.