Colombo seeking to centralise powers, says Wigneswaran

Updated - September 02, 2016 03:14 pm IST

Published - December 16, 2015 03:45 am IST - COLOMBO:

Even as the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government at the Centre is about to launch the process of drafting a fresh Constitution with devolution of powers to Provincial Councils being one of the key issues, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran, on Tuesday criticised it for “seeking to centralise” powers.

Referring to a draft scheme, titled “Grama Rajya” and circulated by the Central government, Mr. Wigneswaran said it had been proposed that district and village level committees, all coming directly under the Central government, would be empowered to decide on implementation of all development works. “This has to be viewed as a new plan by the Central government to sideline provincial councils and exercise its influence directly,” he said, while presenting the budget for 2016.

Mr. Wigneswaran had said during his budget speech last year that people of the Northern Province had not yet come out of adverse impacts of the civil war. Recalling that speech, he said: “No considerable improvement [in the conditions of the people]” had taken place so far. The ongoing development projects of the Central government in the Province or what had been proposed “are all seen to be benefitting people of southern parts of Sri Lanka, instead of our people”.

Even though actions of the present government were giving signals of being “well-intentioned”, they were only “nurturing indirect control” of the Central government over the provincial councils, he said, complaining that what had been allocated to the Northern Province was only about 40 per cent of what was sought.

The Chief Minister, however, expressed the hope that the Central government would understand the situation of the Northern Province and that it would be supportive of the provincial government.

Ranil on devolution

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a recent talk on constitutional reforms, said the “emerging consensus” was to work within the structure of the 13th Amendment [which created Provincial Councils] and this would be “a unitary structure with further devolution of powers.”

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