Now we have another politician being likened to Kuruwita Rala, a warrior who fought the Portuguese to save the country. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has said his party's chief ministerial candidate for Sabaragamuwa at the upcoming PC polls, Ranjan Ramanayake, will save the people of Sabaragamuwa from the Rajapaksa Brothers, Maheepala Herath and others a la Kuruwita Rala, who was an outsider. We don't intend to dwell on this comparison. Suffice it to say that Kuruwita Rala would turn in his grave if he knew this posthumous affront to his dignity. Most present-day politicians, in our book, seem to be descendants of not warriors who fought invading armies but quislings like Don Juan Dharmapala, the Portuguese puppet and the members of the lascarin units (local hirelings at the disposal of the Portuguese).
It is a supreme irony that those who wanted to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in this country on a grand scale in 2005 are now trying to elevate a celluloid hero to the level of a brave man who waged a guerrilla war against those marauders!
(It is intriguing that the UNP, which wears its aversion to war on its sleeve, is trying to market itself by fielding a former general as the chief ministerial candidate in the NCP and by evoking the memories of a brilliant military tactician of yore in Sabaragamuwa!)
Why should political 'outsiders' try to liberate people in any of the provinces? When the Provincial Councils were set up, the idea was to take administration to the grassroots through devolution of power. If that kind of power sharing is to be meaningful and effective, it should be exercised by a group of representatives who are au fait with people's problems in their respective areas.
The existing legal provision for outsiders' participation in PC polls stems from the principle of necessity which was invoked to make the PCs work, while the country was facing the JVP terrorism in its southern parts and the LTTE terrorism in the North and the East in 1988. But, today, that provision has become one of the reasons why the PCs have ended up being political ambalamas (wayside inns).
Some political parties seek to bag PCs with the help of their political hit men in Parliament by fielding them at PC polls. They limp back to Parliament if their mission gets aborted. How the UNP-SLMC combine tried to win the Eastern Province in June is a case in point.
SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem made a much advertised exit from Parliament to contest that PC election. Today, he has returned to Parliament, having failed to be the CM. The SLFP, too, has done likewise in the past. However, the question of its MPs who resigned to contest PC elections––e.g. Reginald Cooray (Western Province), Bertie Premalal Dissanayake (North Central Province) and Maheepala Herath (Sabaragamuwa Province)––returning to Parliament did not arise, as they were lucky enough to become chief ministers. Else, some arrangement would have been made to accommodate them on the National List.
The PCs have also become a Purgatory of sorts for those who fail to get elected to Parliament. They remain there, until their political sins are forgotten and/or forgiven to re-contest a general election.
The government is said to be working towards the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment. That is a step in the right direction. The PC system has become a white elephant. Successive governments have usurped powers of the PCs in every possible way and reduced them to empty shells, where state administration is duplicated at a massive cost. Most of the good schools have been taken over by the Centre. The PCs are losing important hospitals, too, one by one, to the government. Only the Western Provincial Council is in a position to generate some income through taxes while its less fortunate counterparts are totally dependent, for survival, on government allocations which go mainly for their maintenance.
While more powers need to be granted to the PCs in accordance with the Constitution, as proposed, if they are to serve any useful purpose, it is imperative that steps be taken to ensure that they will cease to be political abmalamas for outsiders and political rejects. They must evolve as strong political institutions where there is no room for 'parachutists' and political hit men. New laws are called for to prevent parliamentarians who resign to contest PC polls from re-entering Parliament. Let it also be made mandatory that no Provincial Councillors be permitted to resign to contest general elections. Then only will the PCs have a set of politicians who can focus on provincial administration and development at least for a period of five years.