The Local Government Institutions Delimitation Appeals Committee on the Demarcation of Boundaries has seriously questioned whether their report would be an answer to the myriad problems faced in this regard.
Speaking to the Nation, an official inside the Delimitation Committee who did not wish to be named as he was not authorized to go public, said that the mandate of the Committee whose appointment was gazetted in 2013 was limited with regard to resolving all problems the Committee foresaw and those put forward to it.
The mandate had been limited to being within the local limits and constituencies, which have been resolved to a certain extent, but are not solutions that are 100 per cent adequate or satisfactory, the official said.
He said there are larger issues and to tackle them the Committee must be vested with the power to go beyond the local authorities, powers which it does not possess.
“For example, there is an issue within the Weligama Pradeshiya Sabha (WPS) that we may define it as a knot of sorts. The two ends of the knot are tied in one end to the Weligama Urban Council (WUC) and the other to the Matara Municipal Council (MMC). In short, the problem extends to the WUC and the MMC. To resolve the matter, to remove the knot in the WPS or to loosen the knot in the WPS or to tighten the knot in the WPS, we must have the power to deal with the WUC and the MMC,” the official explained.
Addressing problems in the local authorities and institutions in relation to the ward system, he further added that the new system would prove a serious issue for minority parties such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the minorities (in terms of ethnicity) as both groups have a scattered vote base.
“There is a sizeable voter population for the JVP in areas such as where the PSS of Kotapola, Akuressa and Malimbada are. The JVP obtain about 10% to 15% votes anywhere and in certain places even 35%. With the new system, they will not be able to garner even a single vote. This is very unfair. The same is the case in the North and the East, where the Tamils and the Muslims are concerned and the Sinhalese are the minority.
“The latter will not be able to get a single vote. There is no solution. Yet, there must be. Who will look after and look into the interests of the Sinhalese in predominantly Tamil and Muslim areas? Who will look after and look into the interests of the Tamils in majority Sinhalese and Muslim areas? Who will look after and look into the interests of the Muslims in mainly Sinhalese and Tamil areas,” he asked.
He also highlighted the absence of proportionality in terms of the number of members elected and the land allocated as well as the lack of a formula to deal with it.
“In certain areas, 700 members are elected while in other places the figure could be doubled. Elsewhere, for an area of six to seven square kilometres there are only eight elected members while for an area of three square kilometres there are 12 members.
“In the Badulla district, plantation estates have been divided into four areas, thereby preventing Tamils from being represented. Where dual or multi-member seats are necessary they have not been put in place while in places where they are not needed, they have been established. In the Passara PS, the variation between the votes obtained by the Sinhalese (26,000 votes) and the Tamils (24,000 votes), is reflected in three members. The Committee cannot increase or decrease members.
The Parliamentary system has a 60% to 40% ratio, so how can we have a different system in the Local Government. There are a lot of issues. These are not small issues for the people,” he further explained.
He said a motion should be brought to Parliament and a gazette must be stayed with regard to holding the election under the old system, subsequent to which a full mandate should be given to a Committee to provide answers to the aforementioned issues.
“Those asking for urgent elections too would be in favour of such a solution”, he claimed.
The five-member Local Government Institutions Delimitation Appeals Committee on the Demarcation of Boundaries chaired by retired civil servant, Ashoka Peiris include former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Prof. P. Balasundarampillai, former Senate Representative to the Council of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (appointed as a Member by the University Grants Commission), C.N.S.W. Mathew and Attorneys-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma and A. Sathar M. Misbah.