TNA demands ‘special arrangement’ for Northern Province

...won’t compromise the number of elected members to facilitate electoral reforms


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on Saturday insisted that it wouldn’t cooperate under any circumstance with the  electoral reforms meant to reduce the number of elected representatives from the Northern and Eastern electoral districts.

Nine members are elected from the Jaffna electoral district, whereas six enter parliament from the Vanni electoral district comprising Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi districts. Sixteen are elected from the Eastern Province comprising the electoral districts of Trincomalee (4), Digamadulla (7) and Batticaloa (5).

The TNA comprised the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), TELO, PLOTE and EPRLF.

TNA heavyweight and National List Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said that their support for the proposed 20 Amendment to the Constitution would entirely depend on guarantee that the existing 160 electorates would remain intact.

The top lawyer was responding to a query at a live Sirasa political programme Satana also involving North Western Province Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, Deputy Justice Minister Sujeweewa Senasinghe and JVP MP Vijitha Herath.

Sumanthiran called for a special arrangement to ensure that Tamil speaking people would retain the same number of seats regardless of drastic drop in the number of electors over the years due to them fleeing the country or moving to districts outside the Northern Province. The TNA MP also referred to well over 100,000 Sri Lankans still remaining in Tamil Nadu.

The MP insisted that the electoral reforms couldn’t be finalized at the expense of Tamil speaking people. The MP insisted that the SLFP’s push for an agreement on electoral reforms wasn’t realistic therefore those spearheading talks on the 20 Amendment should be mindful of their concerns.

Responding to another query, Sumanthiran emphasized that post-war solution to the national issue should be discussed leaving out the 13 Amendment to the Constitution. The MP asserted that branding the proposed solution as a federal set-up would be inimical to on-going efforts, adding that the country should examine the ground realities.

The TNA MP said that some time back the Indian Supreme Court thwarted a move to reduce the number of elected members from Tamil Nadu on the basis of drop in population due to a successful birth control project carried out in the Southern Indian State. Sumanthiran said that the Supreme Court held that Tamil Nadu would continue to elect 40 members as the success of the birth control project shouldn’t affect the state’s representation in parliament.

While asserting that the current parliament wouldn’t be able to tackle the national issue and expressing confidence that the next parliament would be able to resolve the national question, the MP said that the TNA was ready to work with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wayamba CM Jayasekera said that political parties couldn’t ignore the urgent need to decide on the number of elected representatives on the basis of the strength of each electoral district. Former MP Jayasekera strongly pushed for an agreement on electoral reforms leading to the finalization of the 20 Amendment to the Constitution.

In the run-up to the passage of the 19 Amendment to the Constitution, the SLFP insisted that the 20 Amendment should be approved before the next parliamentary election.

JVP MP Vijitha Herath quoted Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya as having said that at least one year was required to educate the electorate of the change of electoral reforms. MP Herath said that electoral reforms couldn’t be brought in accordance with the SLFP’s agenda.

During the programme, the TNA MP also asserted that the Chief Minister of the Northern Province could exercise the powers of the Governor in accordance with provision in the 19 Amendment as regards the status between the President and Prime Minister. In line with the 19 Amendment, the members of the cabinet could be appointed only on the advice of the Prime Minister.

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