The Sri Lankan government has said that the long-pending Provincial Council elections in all of its nine provinces would not be possible until the 2017 Act is amended in Parliament.
The provincial elections have been postponed since 2017 as the then government (United National Party) wanted to reform the process by introducing a new hybrid system of first past the post and proportional representation from the current system of proportional representation.
The 2017 Act will have to be amended as in 2018 Parliament had rejected the delimitation report which should have been approved with a two-thirds majority to make the new hybrid system legal.
Provincial Council elections for the nine provinces would not be possible until the Act is amended in Parliament, the Attorney General has informed the parliamentary select committee on election reforms, its chair and the minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena said.
Responding to remarks by Tamil minority parties that Indian pressure had resulted in the government’s revisiting of the issue, foreign minister GL Peiris denied it, “there was no pressure at all from India”.
Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told the select committee on Friday that he hoped that the election would be possible in the first quarter of next year after the amendment to revert to Proportional Representation.
The Proportional Representation system was followed until the former Maithripala Sirisena — Ranil Wickremesinghe government in 2017 which amended election laws to shift to a Mixed-Member Proportional Representation electoral system, based on a delimitation exercise.
The issue of stagnating provincial polls were highlighted last week when the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised the issue at his official engagements.
“Shringla reiterated India’s position on complete implementation of the provisions under the 13th amendment to the Constitution including devolution of powers and the holding of Provincial Council elections at the earliest,” the Indian statement on Foreign Secretary”s visit said.
The provincial councils were added to the Sri Lankan statutes as a result of direct Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority issue.
India proposed province-based devolution in terms of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987 under the then Indian Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi.
India has been advocating the early holding of the elections for all nine provinces, which has been stalled since 2018.
In March, India at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva stressed that there is a need for Sri Lanka to hold provincial elections as soon as possible.