PA-UNP agreement draws criticism
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 21 March 2000, 11:37 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government and the main opposition party discussed and agreed upon some modifications to the procedures for appointing governors to regions as spelt out in the draft constitutional proposals of the ruling People's Alliance (PA) of 1997 today during their third round of talks on working out a consensus to solve the ethnic conflict. Reacting to the PA-UNP communique this afternoon, Tamil parties in Colombo said that "this is an agreement to further water down the basis for devolving power to the proposed Regional bodies envisaged in the 97' proposals".
Article 129 (2) of the 1997 draft constitutional proposal of the government states "The Governor shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the chief minister of the Region".
The appointment of a region's governor by the President solely on the advice of its chief minister is deemed necessary to prevent the central government from unduly intervening in the affairs that region through the governor.
According to the joint communique issued today by the government and the UNP, "Agreement was arrived at with regard to the procedures to be followed by the Head of State in achieving a balance between giving due importance to the wishes of the Regions, and the overall responsibility of the Central Executive in making the appointment of Governors with answerability to Parliament."
The leader of a moderate Tamil political party in Colombo pointed out that the phrase "achieving a balance" is a euphemism for saying that the head of state and the Parliament will have a say on the appointment of a governor to a Region and that this goes against the very essence of devolution contained in the draft proposals of 1997.
The powers devolved to the provincial councils under the 13th amendment to the current Sri Lankan constitution in 1987 were almost nullified by the procedure stipulated under its provisions for appointing a governor to a province, according to Tamil parties and political analysts.
Article 154 B (2) of the 13th amendment states "the governor shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand, and shall hold office, in accordance with article 4 (b), during the pleasure of the President."
However, the government and the UNP have agreed to discuss the matter with the minority parties before meeting again according to today's joint communique.
The following is the full text of the government-UNP joint statement issued this afternoon:
"The delegations of the PA and UNP continued their discussions on the Government's draft constitutional proposals of October 1997, under the chairmanship of the President at Temple Trees today.
The PA delegation comprised of Ministers Dharmasiri Senanayake, D.M.Jayaratne, G.L.Peiris, Indika Gunawardene, Batty Weerakoon and M.H.M.Ashraff.
The UNP delegation comprised of Messrs Ranil Wickremasinghe, Deshabandu Karu Jayasuriya, Gamini Atukorala, Ronnie de Mel, M.H.Mohamed, K.N.Choksy
and Mahinda Samarasinghe.
Mr.K.Balapatabendi, Secretary to the President and Dr.Jayampathy Wickremaratne were also present at this meeting.
The delegation discussed in detail the provisions of the Government's 1997 draft Constitutional proposals in relation to the mode of appointment of Governors of Regions.
Agreement was arrived at with regard to the procedures to be followed by the Head of State in achieving a balance between giving due importance to the wishes of the Regions, and the overall responsibility of the Central Executive in making the appointment of Governors with answerability to Parliament.
It was also agreed that the procedure recommended by the two delegations would be discussed by the PA with representatives of the minority parties before finalization.
It was agreed that the next meeting will be held next week at Temple Trees."