Austin Fernando | Isura Devapriya | Niluka Ekanayake

Both, Provincial Governors and Provincial Chief Ministers expressed favour with regard to the abolition of the Concurrent List.

Among the Provincial Governors include those affiliated to the ruling United National Party government while among the Chief Ministers are those affiliated to the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

The Ninth Schedule of the Constitution contains List I, which is the Provincial Councils List (the subjects under this have been fully devolved to the Provinces), List II which is the Reserved List (only the Central Government has the power) and List III which is the Concurrent List.  In the case of the latter, although the Provinces can exercise power in this regard, prior to the passing of any legislation on subjects coming within the purview of the Concurrent List, the Provincial Councils have to consult Parliament and seek the legislature’s opinion with regard to the provisions of the proposed laws.

The same applies when Parliament seeks to pass a law on a subject in the said List. In both cases, neither the Provincial Councils nor the Parliament is however bound to give effect to whatever opinions expressed by either party.

Governor of the Eastern Province, former Defence Secretary Austin Fernando while acknowledging the possibility of not having the Concurrent List and it being given up, pointed out that it is better to have clarity rather than the duplication of functions.

Chief Minister of the Western Province, Isura Devapriya too concurred with Fernando. Calling for subjects to be separately allocated for the government and the Provincial Councils, Devapriya, noted that: “Without the concurrent list, it can instead be decided as to what subjects are to be handed over to the Provinces, whether it is for example, education or health.”
Meanwhile, addressing the questioning of how the said List could be amended, Fernando added that on the question of the Provincial Councils and the Centre, a decision must be taken on what powers are to be reduced and how the functions are to be allocated.

“There is a definite need for review. There must be a solution regarding the divisions. Part must go to the Centre and part to the Provinces. This is a national issue,” he explained.

Elsewhere, on the question of what constituted the meaningful devolution of power, while Governor of the Central Province, Niluka Ekanayake was of the view that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should not be fully implemented, Devapriya suggested that aspects in the said Amendment, aside of police and land powers, should be strengthened. Fernando on the other hand, highlighted that in order for the country to move forward, there would have to be some sort of devolution, which he explained should be based on the principle of subsidiarity and the understanding and maintenance of the distinction between delegation and decentralization. He also warned against encroachment by the government upon the Provincial Councils and vice versa.

Fernando was also of the view that the governors, appointees of the Executive, wielded too much power including certain powers which, according to him were “a little too excessive.”
“Yes, I agree that there must be certain changes. Whether politicians should be appointed as Governors too is a matter that has to be reviewed. There is no value however in a cosmetic governor,” he emphasized, while Devapriya stressed the vital importance of consultations being held between the Governors, the Chief Ministers and the Provincial Councils during decision-making processes as a solution to various ills plaguing the current situation.