A Presidential directive highlighting the State’s national policy with regard to the need for obtaining Treasury approval for future overseas travel of Provincial Councillors has caused a conflict between the Provincial Councils and the Central Government.
Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, President’s Counsel Faiszer Musthapha has already declared that Provincial Councils should adhere to the directive.
While acknowledging that the matter came under the purview of the Governors of the Provinces, he, however, noted that a Governor was the representative of the President. When queried as to whether such a directive infringed upon the legal autonomy afforded to the Provincial Councils, Mushthapha said that since it was for the betterment of the Government and the country, there was no need to be bogged down in the finer points or nitty-gritty of questions pertaining to the powers devolved.
“There is an obligation on the part of the Provincial Councils as this concerns public funds. The public perception is the same,” said Mushthapha In the eyes of the Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council, CVK Sivagnanam, the directive did not prevent anyone from taking part in foreign workshops and there was nothing wrong with it.
While emphasizing that the measure was a guarantee of transparency, he claimed it would provide an impetus for Provincial Councilors to be more effective.
Chief Minister of the Western Province, Isura Devapriya charged that the Governor of the Central Province and biased media coverage of the matter paved the way for Presidential and governmental intervention.
Devapriya claimed that Provincial officials and people’s representatives go overseas to expand their horizons that benefit the development of the country unlike going along with the frog-in-the-well mentality.
Governor of the Western Province, KC Logeswaran said they were caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea. He said that in resolving the matter the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary had been made aware of the situation faced by Governors island-wide.
“One of the predicaments faced by Governors is how does one rescind provisions of the legal statutes of the Provinces, when there is a national policy directive taken by the Cabinet of Ministers”, Logeswaran said.
He said another sticking point was how the Governor could deny the right of movement without violating the fundamental rights of the relevant parties and those involved.
“We have to follow this decision. This is the position in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Some say that these are jaunts while Provincial Councils argue that these are conducted tours. Members send legitimate applications to go abroad and in such cases they would be in possession of a valid passport. The Governor can refrain from allowing such trips and there must be a valid reason. This situation leaves a bad taste as comes at a time when there is talk of devolving more powers to Provincial Councils,” Logeswaran lamented.