Govt. to present urgent Bill to repeal PCs’ power to merge

Northern PC polls in September regardless  of PSC consensus on 13-A amendments


by Zacki Jabbar

An urgent Bill is to be moved in Parliament next week to abolish the power of Provincial Councils to merge, as provided for in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Media Minister Kekeliya Rambukwella told a news conference in Colombo yesterday, that the proposed Bill had been endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers.

The government, he noted, would also move for the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to discuss the proposed amendments to the 13th Amendment, but regardless of a consensus being reached by the PSC, the Northern Provincial Council Election (NPCE) would be held before the end of September.

Asked, if the NCP polls would be conducted in September, even if the PSC was unable to reach a consensus before the legally required date to call for nominations, the Minister said that in keeping with assurances given by President Rajapaksa both locally and to the international community including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the long overdue Northern PC polls would be held before the end of September.

Minister Rambukwella noted that in the event a PSC consensus couldn’t be reached prior to the time frame that had been set, its deliberations would continue after the election was concluded.

The Cabinet of ministers had had a lengthy discussion yesterday on the two amendments proposed to the 13th Amendment and agreement had been reached on abolishing the President’s powers to merge two or more provinces. Accordingly, a Bill to give effect to the Cabinet decision would be presented to Parliament shortly, Rambukwalle observed.

He said that it had been decided to refer the second proposal meant to abolish the constitutional clause that required the consent of all Provincial Councils to pass legislation pertaining to it to the PSC to be set up. "We will meet the Speaker on Tuesday and request that a PSC be appointed to discuss all issues pertaining to the 13th Amendment including land and police powers, he said, alleging that since the TNA changed its stance frequently, the government intended moving that members be selected from parties who were willing to participate in the PSC process.

The SLFP, Jathika Hela Urumaya and the National Freedom Front, Rambukwella noted, were of the opinion that the 13th Amendment had to be amended since it did not suit a small country like Sri Lanka.

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