Peace group fears for the credibility of Provincial Council system

[TamilNet, Saturday, 23 August 2008, 10:07 GMT]
The National Peace Council, a Colombo based peace group, on Friday said that the conduct of the Sri Lankan government with regard to the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils indicated that the political agenda of the centre, and power politics, rather than the democratic requirements of the provinces that have been uppermost. Both the provinces are Sinhala dominated. Reminding that the Provincial Council system was established to provide the basis of a solution to the ethnic conflict based on the devolution of power, the NPC said that the SP and NCP Council elections have implications that go beyond 'ordinary politics and the contest for political dominance.'

Full text of the press statement by the NPC follows:

Political agenda of the centre or the democratic requirement of power sharing?

The provincial council elections for the Sabaragamuwa and North Central provinces scheduled for August 23 have implications that go beyond ordinary politics and the contest for political dominance. The Provincial Council system was established in 1987 to provide the basis of a solution to the ethnic conflict based on the devolution of power. This has been reiterated by the present government which had pledged to fully implement the system to include the Northern and Eastern provinces.

The National Peace Council regrets that the conduct with regard to the two Provincial Councils for the Sabaragamuwa and North Central provinces indicates that the political agenda of the centre, and power politics, rather than the democratic requirements of the provinces have been uppermost. Both of these Provincial Councils were prematurely dissolved by the government, and the election campaign was undermined by violence in which politicians from the centre have been implicated.

There was a high level of violence and intimidation that took place in the course of the election campaign, especially in the final days of the campaign. As the criteria for a free and fair election includes the pre-election period this means a flawed election is about to take place on Saturday. Due to the upsurge in violence, and inability on the part of the Police alone to address the situation, the Election Commissioner has called on the army to be deployed the two provinces to ensure that normalcy is restored during the elections.

We trust that the government and the security forces will act with integrity to ensure that the basic foundation of our democracy, which is the people’s right to vote without fear and intimidation, is protected. We also appeal to the opposition parties not to take the law into their own hands on the grounds that the government parties have been engaging in violence with impunity, which would mean the law of the jungle. We call upon the Elections Commissioner to do his statutory duty and implement his promise to annul polling booths where there has been violence, intimidation or spiriting away of ballot boxes or stuffing them. As a longer term measure to ensure good governance in the country, we demand the implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution by the government, which among others establish independent Elections and Police Commissions.

 

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