are apprehensions among smaller parties over the proposed
local government (special provisions) bill, which is to be
debated in parliament shortly.
The doubt and the fear of the smaller parties are not
Their thinking is that it would seriously affect the
representations of smaller parties at local level.
Some think that the proposed amendment would consolidate and
fortify the two-party system in Sri Lanka forcing the
smaller parties to take shelter under the two major parties,
namely the UNP and the SLFP.
In other words, they say that this would cause a major
setback to the representative democracy on which Sri Lanka’s
election system built and relied upon for so long.
It appears, however, that the UNP has no major objection
to the proposed bill since the UNP groups in almost all the
Provincial Councils voted with the government to give assent
to the bill at provincial level, while the UNP group in the
Western Provincial Council approved it subject to certain
The government, however, was encountering a difficult
situation to get it approved through the Eastern Provincial
Council since Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan
had expressed his reservations on the proposed legislation.
But he had to give in to the pressure exerted by the
centre after he was summoned to Colombo and given him piece
of the government’s mind.
The proposed bill was referred for discussion and subsequent
approval of the Provincial Councils in terms of the
provisions of the 13th amendment to the constitution.
The UNP’s position is that they would move several
amendments to the bill in order to ensure greater
representation to the youth and women, which should be in
the region of 40 percent, senior UNP parliamentarian Ravi
Karunanayake told this column.
He said the UNP would also lobby for another amendment that
would enhance the people’s right to elect members to the
Karunanayake also said the first-past-the-post system
introduced after a lapse of nearly 30 years would enable the
people to elect members to their respective wards.
In the circumstances, it is nothing but reasonable to put an
end to horsetrading in politics after an election, by
introducing another amendment which would require a member
who intends to cross over to another party leaving the party
from which he or she is elected to face a by-election if he
is representing a ward.
He, however, was not very clear about the 30 percent of
members who would be nominated to local council under the
proportional representation system.
This too could be sorted out if the prevailing provisions
are adhered to strictly that members who are elected under
the proportional system would forfeit their seats in the
event of a cross over since under the PR system the seat
belongs to the party and not the individual.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is vehemently opposing the
move by the government to introduce the first-past-the-post
system, coupled with the proportional representation.
They are of the view that it would affect the prospects of
the SLMC as a party since Muslims are scattered all over the
country with a few concentrations in the Eastern Ampara
In the circumstances, the SLMC had proposed that the matter
should be discussed at length at a parliamentary select
committee to arrive at a pragmatic solution reasonable to
all parties concerned.
SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem, on Wednesday, had lengthy
discussions with Minister Basil Rajapaksa to tell him as to
why they were opposing the bill.
It is the concerted view of the SLMC that it would not augur
well for the party and that they could not just put up their
hands in support of the government and thereby get the party
“It will not augur well for the party since there would be a
serious split if they support this move,” an SLMC high
command member told this column.
He said party general secretary Hassan Ali has a different
view point altogether on the matter especially on the powers
of the delimitation commission.
The SLMC’s objections, however, came a cropper following the
meeting Hakeem had with Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Minister Rajapaksa, who listened to Hakeem attentively,
solicited the SLMC’s support for the passage of the bill
after pledging that those amendments would be effected
shortly. Hakeem, a shrewd politician by nature, agreed.
What crossed his mind would be difficult to fathom.
However, some think that he was not ready to be in the bad
books of the government by opposing their move now, yet some
others feel that Hakeem was more interested in a ministerial
portfolio more than anything else which may come his way by
November when the President takes his oaths for a second
What Hakeem told the people whom matter to him was that they
should not run the risk of destroying the party (SLMC) by
opposing them at this point of time.
Hakeem, nevertheless, proposed that if the mayor or a
chairman of a local government body loses the vote on the
budget at the annual presentation, the entire council or the
local authority should be rendered dissolved as against the
new provision included in the proposed bill.
This will prevent horsetrading by powerful political parties
and would not necessitate the government to appoint a
special commissioner or a competent authority run the
This is likely to happen in the councils won by the
opposition rather than the government.
The new provision states that once the mayor loses the vote
on the budget he automatically loses his mayoralty or the
chairmanship of the council but does not forfeit his seat.
In the meantime, the SLMC is likely, through a third party,
to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to compel
the authorities to hold a proper census of the population in
the Northern Province before holding the elections for the
Northern Provincial Council.
In their view, the electoral lists are prepared depending on
the census of 80s which is no longer applicable in these
areas, after the accomplishment of the war.
Census in North
A proper census would also help the delimitation commission
to accomplish its duties effectively, since many people have
either left their homes and gone overseas or displaced due
to the war.
The SLMC, therefore, attaches much importance to this
matter, though it has had no direct reference to the subject
in issue the local government amendment (special provisions)
bill, this too was discussed at length at the SLMC political
and legal circles.
Coming back to the issue concerning the local government
(special provisions) bill, it has been noted that although
the main opposition UNP supported the bill at the meeting of
the Western Provincial Council acting upon the instructions
of the party hierarchy, they also had detected serious flaws
in the law.
The UNP, however, had submitted a list of amendments that
the government should consider seriously before it becomes
law after going through parliamentary procedures.
Some of the party activists were lamenting that lack of
consensus and co-ordination in the main opposition UNP led
to this uncanny support and the Western Provincial Council
approved the bill with serious flaws.
Nevertheless the two members representing the SLMC abstained
from voting, which necessitated the government to talk to
SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem in a bid to persuade him to support
The government means business and presented the proposed
bill in parliament on Thursday to become law within the
shortest possible period in time for the impending local
government elections, next year.
The Provincial Council members representing the UNP say that
there are serious grammatical and language errors in the
proposed bill, the quota of 25 percent of the membership in
local government bodies allocated for women, and youth has
not been made a mandatory provision.
They, however, point out that tendering the birth
certificate has been made mandatory by making the law
contradictory to its own provisions.
Chance for youth
It is their view that if the nomination of 25 percent youth
and women are not mandatory, producing of the birth
certificate at the time of nomination could not be mandatory
A salient feature in the proposed bill is that the provision
enabling the votes to be counted at the polling booth
At the same time, the provision enables the presiding
officer concerned to change the venue at his or her
discretion on security concerns but however it needs prior
approval from the returning officer.
Some opposition councillors feel that the presiding officer
should not be given the discretion to act on his whims and
fancies and are of the opinion that this would leave room
for abuse if this provision were exercised without proper
Although the UNP had established that some of the provisions
in the proposed local government (special provisions) bill
are inconsistent with that of the constitution, had allowed
the bill to go through subject to several amendments at
provincial level maybe with an after thought to challenge
the same at the national level.
The UNP, however, had not shown any serious discontent
against introducing the first past post system, which they
did away with the promulgation of the 1978 constitution.
Nevertheless, it could not be ruled out that the UNP may
obstruct the passage when it becomes crucial for the
government; however, it is difficult to read now as to what
the UNP would do given the internal bickering in the party.
The UNP crisis may heighten in the days to come when the
leader is out on an official visit to Norway and the Europe,
similar to what happened in the past, but UNP leader
Wickremesinghe, a leader with political acumen had been able
to overcome all that with wit and grit.
The question that remains unanswered is whether he could
repeat the same again.
Mangala Samaraweera, the UNP’s new find, plays the anchor
role for Wickremesinghe forgetting his past performance
where he acted as the hatchet man for the SLFP instrumental
in destroying the political image of Wickremesinghe.
Samaraweera has now put Wickremesinghe at ease carrying
Wickremesinghe’s burden and kept Wickremesinghe’s opponents
at bay a sigh of relief for the UNP leader, who is saddled
with numerous problems with rebels.
In the contrary, it is the general perception of the SLFP
and more with the government supporters that it would be
much easier for them to run amok politically with
Wickremesinghe at the helm of the UNP. Hence, they take no
risk of losing Wickremesinghe as the leader that is
advantageous to them.
The general belief of the rebels is that Wickrmesinghe’s
utterances connecting Tiran Alles and the government during
the working committee meeting was an inspired leak from the
higher echelons of the government, to put the opposition in
The UNP hierarchy is aware of the connections the Sajith
Premadsa group maintains with the government and their
contradictory approach to the other burning issues which
plague the country.
This prompted Mangala Samaraweera to say that when the
country and its administrative machinery needs reforms,
speaking only about the reforms in the UNP is surprising and
an indirect support rendered to the government.
It appears that the Sajith Premadasa group is indulging in a
relentless battle to rid Wickremesinghe from the UNP
The Premadasa group is likely to make optimum use of the
December convention to challenge Wickremesinghe and the
present hierarchical arrangement in the party.
What they want is to present the constitutional reforms to
the party convention in December after being ratified by the
working committee in November.
Once the reforms are ratified by the party convention in
December, it would go back to the working committee where
there would be a session that would get the general approval
of the working committee and the parliamentary group on the
If there are two or more names for one position there would
be an election for such post, within the working committee
and the parliamentary group.
The Sajith Premadasa group, however, alleges that the
Wickremesinghe group is hell bent on preventing the party
convention being held in December, by any means.
It has now been revealed that an unknown person would
challenge the party’s decision to hold the convention
without holding the all island national executive committee
It is a constitutional requirement according to the party
constitution that the national executive committee be held
before the party convention.
It is learnt that plans are afoot to obtain an injunction
preventing the holding of the party convention.
The national executive committee of the party is unable to
be summoned since the party has so far not appointed the
district organisations, which is the basis on which the
National Executive Committee is appointed.
According to article 16(5) of the UNP constitution, the
status quo will remain if the party fails to hold the
convention in terms of the constitutional requirement.
This means the present office-bearers would continue to
function without any hindrance.
The UNP’s game plan is clear and the rebels on the contrary
are planning to summon all Provincial Council and Pradeshiya
Sabbah members to Colombo in a bid to show their strength in
the event of the failure of the party leadership to hold the
The main objective behind the move is to steam roll the
rebels and make the path clear for Wickremesinghe to be at
the helm of the party without facing an election of which
the main contender would be Sajith Preamdasa.
The Premadasa group has also launched an offensive against
southern top notch of the UNP Vajira Abeyewardene for the
sentiments expressed by him against party reforms.
The Premadasa group finds fault with Abeywardene for going
against the decision of the party’s working committee, which
recommended drastic reforms to the party structure and the
Ranjit Aluvihare, in a letter addressed to the party leader,
had requested him to take disciplinary action against Vajira
Abeywardene for this misdemeanour.
Aluvihare’s letter states thus:
Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe MP, Leader of the UNP,
I wish to bring to your attention statements made by Mr
Vajira Abeywardena, ex-parliamentarian from the Galle
District which have been given wide publicity in the print
and electronic media in the last few days including news
items in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of October 6 2010 and
‘Lankadeepa’ of October 7 2010. In fact you were questioned
by the media about these statements by Mr Abeywardena at a
press conference which was broadcast over several TV
Channels on October 6 2010.
Mr Abeywardena has stated in these statements that the UNP
constitution should not be changed and he will object to any
attempt to change it.
Mr Abyewardena was a senior member of parliament from 1994
until the last general election in April 2010 and a
longstanding member of the party working committee.
He is therefore well aware that a committee headed by senior
parliamentarian Mr Joseph Michael was appointed to consider
and recommend any necessary reforms to the party
These recommendations were tabled at the party working
committee and fully approved. Thereafter a committee headed
by Mr Tilak Marapana, President’s Counsel, was appointed to
draft a new constitution in accordance with the suggested
reforms. At the last meeting of the working committee held
on September 18, 2010 Marapana tabled an interim report
giving the progress of the work of his Committee.
Therefore, the adoption of a new UNP constitution in line
with the reforms has been accepted on many occasions by the
Party Working Committee of which Mr Abeywardena is a member.
Further, the party working committee has decided that party
discipline must be enforced strictly as public statements
such as the ones made by Abeywardena contrary to express
party decisions and party policies are detrimental to the
reputation of the party and will cause severe damage to it.
It will lead to even more dissension amongst members.
At a time when all forces of the party are seeking to unify
and bring together all people with diverse ideas, Mr
Abeywardena is acting in a manner which will damage the UNP
even further, derail the reform process and prevent
consensual action to appoint or elect people to its high
In this situation, where the party working committee itself
has decided to change the UNP Constitution, Mr Abeywardena
as a member cannot be permitted to make statements which are
totally contrary to its decisions.
Therefore, I request you to immediately take appropriate
disciplinary action against Mr Abeywardena for the public
statements made by him as referred to above and to expressly
direct him not to make such statements in the future which
will cause further loss to the party’s reputation and will
lead to more erosion of its discipline by senior members
such as Mr Abeywardena and by other members as well.
I also suggest that meetings such as the one organised by Mr
Abeywardena and held at his residence in Galle last week
should not be held in the future as they work against the
party’s interests and create dissension within the party.
This particular meeting caused further disrepute to the
party as it was reported in the media that even you had been
subjected to jeering. Therefore, similar meetings must not
be held again.
I also suggest that wide publicity be given to the actions
you take against Mr Abeywardena so that others will not
follow in his footsteps by making statements contrary to
decisions by the party working committee.
Be that as it may, the UNP has now decided to take on the
JVP once again and had warned them not to make Fonseka a
scapegoat to achieve their political ends.
This was after the JVP decided to go it alone and its
decision not invite UNP leader for the demonstration they
held near the Welikada prisons to secure the release of the
The UNP says that though there is a big propaganda campaign
to secure the release of the former army commander very few
parliamentarians actually visit him in the prisons.
The other day, the UNP’s Ravi Karunanayake and Mangala
Samaraweera visited him and had a responsive chat with him
while handing over him a book on the autobiography of late
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; the former General
is also in the process of reading ‘Discovery of India’
authored by the late Nehru.
It was the opinion of the two UNP parliamentarians that it
would give Fonseka much-needed political inspiration and
strength to spend his time in jail that would eventually
make him a strong politician with vigour to face
vicissitudes in political life.
In the meantime, President’s Counsel Romesh De Silva argues
the case where the General has challenged the decision of
the parliamentary secretary-general and the election
commissioner to declare that his parliamentary seat has
fallen vacant consequent to him being convicted by the
general court martial.
Counsel De Silva argues that a general court martial is not
a Court of Law within the meaning of the constitution or the
general law of the country and is being appointed by the
President under the army act.
He also argued that the sentence does not flow from the GCM
itself after conviction unlike in a court established under
the normal law of the country but the sentence handed down
by a GCM has to be affirmed by the appointing authority -
Hence, he argues a conviction by the GCM does not render his
He also states that the Commander–in-Chief had only affirmed
the sentence, and not the conviction by the GCM.
He said the letter sent by the attorney-general to the Paul
Ratnayake Associates does not mention anything about a
Nevertheless, the deputy solicitor general, who appears for
the attorney-general, argued that the GCM is similar to any
other court of law in the country, and said that it could
even hand down a death sentence.
She argued that it is a court within the meaning of the
Some others point out if this argument is accepted then the
Labour Tribunal should also be accepted as a court and state
that it is only an institution set up under the law to
resolve industrial disputes.
While the case against the parliamentary secretary-general
and the elections commissioner is being argued at the Court
of Appeal, the army had taken appropriate action in terms of
the first court martial.
The Army Headquarters, in a communiqué sent to all branches,
had said that General G S C Fonseka RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, rcds
psc (retd) was convicted by a GCM on 13.08.2010 and
sentenced to be cashiered. The said sentence was confirmed
by the President on 14.08.2010.
In consequence of the said sentence awarded by the general
court martial (which was confirmed by the President) the
person aforesaid has ceased to be an officer and shall not
be entitled to the following
To be referred to by his former military rank under any
circumstances in correspondence or otherwise.
For military titles, decorations, medals etc to be indicated
along with his name
Entry into any military installation except under the
express authority of the Commander of the Army.
Photograph and portrait to be displayed at military
Names to be displayed in plaques boards etc
H C P GOONETILLEKE RSP USP
However, the campaign to secure the release of the former
General is said to be gathering momentum here and elsewhere
in the world.
The New York Buddhist Vihara that hosts SLFP meetings in New
York organised a Pinkama (religious ceremony) to invoke
divine blessings to the incarcerated former general to which
a large number, in terms of the Sri Lankans in New York,
In addition to Fonseka, supporters there were many who did
not support him politically but who stood for justice and
They were of the view that law, order situation in the
country is fast deteriorating, and immediate steps should be
taken to rectify the situation.
Apsara Fonseka, the elder daughter of Sarath Fonseka,
participated in the religious ceremony and thanked all who
gathered in support of her father.
Speaking to crowd in attendance, she said, “I feel stronger
than ever before” and said her father was a strong person
and his endurance would make him a giant personality with a
greater enthusiasm to serve the people.
The prelate in-charge of the New York Buddhist Vihara Ven
Kurunegoda Piyatissa invoked blessings while Ven Akmeemana
Nagitha conducted the religious ceremony.
A portrait of former General Fonseka was garlanded on
The other main problem discussed in political and legal
circles in Colombo is the legal hiatus created by the JVP’s
Lakshman Nipunararchchi not accepting the seat purported to
have been vacated in consequent to the conviction by the GCM
of Sarath Fonseka. Although certain lawyers have expressed
various legal opinions on the matter and when some had gone
to the extent of saying that the matter should be referred
to the Supreme Court for a ruling or the constitution should
be amended since the constitution is silent on such an
event, some others think it is not necessary.
They say that if the nominated member fails to turn up
within a period of three months it should go to the next
person in the list.
Accordingly, it is likely that Jayantha Katagoda, who is
next on the list would accept the nomination at the expiry
of three months following the nomination of Nipunarachchi by
the election commissioner.
However, in all probability they think that it would have
been better if the election commissioner delays the
nomination pending the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
In the event Katagoda accepts the seat and the Court of
Appeal declares the seat of Sarath Fonseka had not fallen
vacant by virtue of the sentence awarded by the GCM, there
once again creates a legal hiatus, which would require a
declaration that the nomination of Katagoda is invalid.