20 A: Loss in Uva makes a two-thirds approval mandatory, PC polls now likely by year end

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An attempt by the ruling UNP-SLFP coalition to put off the scheduled Provincial Councils elections in Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provinces is bound to fail due to SLFP-controlled Uva and Southern PCs overwhelmingly rejecting the proposed draft of the 20 Amendment to the Constitution, The Island learns.

Uva Chief Minister Chamara Sampath Dassanayake told The Island that in the wake of Uva PC rejection of the draft he had got an opportunity to explain his position to President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena last Friday (Aug 25) at a meeting at the President’s private residence.Twelve members led by CM Dassanayake voted against the draft whereas five UNPers voted for it on Aug. 24.

Southern PC rejected the draft of the 20 Amendment on Aug 29. In both cases, the two SLFP factions loyal to President Sirisena and his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa got together to defeat the draft of the 20 Amendment.

Ministerial sources told The Island that the government initiative meant to postpone PC polls scheduled for later this year had suffered a huge setback.

Constitutional expert Manohara de Silva, PC, on Tuesday told The Island that the government project had been severely hampered by the rejection by two PCs of the draft 20 Amendment.

President Sirisena, on behalf of the government sought the approval of PCs for the controversial draft as a matter of priority.

PC De Silva said the rejection of the proposed Amendment by even one PC could derail the government initiative. The PC explained that the proposed 20 Amendment was intended to amend Chapter xvii A of the Constitution introduced by the 13 Amendment.

In accordance with Article 154G (2) an amendment such as the draft 20 Amendment had to be referred to all PCs, De Silva noted. If all PCs had endorsed the proposed amendment, the government would have been able to secure its passage with a simple majority though a constitutional amendment normally required two-thirds majority, he said.

Those promoting the 20 Amendment should be also mindful that the Supreme Court had been moved against it, PC de Silva said. If the Supreme Court ruled that a referendum was necessary for the passage of the 20 Amendment, the government would find it well-nigh impossible to postpone the PC polls.

In addition to a petition filed by the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), there are a number of other appeals to the apex court.

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris told The Island that PC polls delaying project had gone awry and coalition partners were under pressure to prepare for polls. Responding to The Island query from Europe, Prof. Peiris pointed out that the moment Uva PC rejected it, the government had lost hope of adopting the amendment with a simple majority.

The Western and the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councils are scheduled to put the proposed 20-A to the vote on Sept 4 and 12, respectively whereas the Southern PC rejected it by 27 votes.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that polls in East, Sabaragamuwa and North Central would have to be held later this year.

Additional Commissioner, National Election Commission M. M. Mohamed told The Island that the Sabaragamuwa, Eastern and North Central would complete their five year terms on Sept. 26, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, respectively. Mohamed said that in accordance with the Provincial Council Election Act No 02 of 1988, nominations would be called on Oct. 2 or 3. Responding to a query, he said the Uva Provincial Council would be the last to complete its term on Oct. 8, 2019.

Prof. Peiris said the Uva PC had created an irreversible situation as far as the PC polls were concerned. He said the outcome of votes on the draft 20 Amendment in remaining PCs was now immaterial. Prof. Peiris confirmed that those loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would contest future polls on the Sri Lanka Nidahas Peramuna ticket.

The former law professor noted that the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), too, had refused to back 20 Amendment in its present form.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...