Rush to establish Interim Council

[TamilNet, Saturday, 20 November 1999, 16:43 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government asked parties which have representatives from the North-eastern province in Parliament to send in their list of nominees for an Interim Council. The letter requesting parties to propose 3-5 persons each for membership in the council, before November 25 has been sent out by the Ministry of Provincial Councils.

According to the Gazette notification of November 2, the Interim Council for the North-eastern province will comprise an advisory council and a board of management.

There will be 11-17 members in the advisory council and five in the board of management. The members of this board will be drawn from among the members of the advisory council.

The Sri Lankan President will appoint the chairman of the board of management.

The chairman in effect would be the chief minister of the NE province and the members of the board of management will function as ministers.

The five members will be allocated the following ministries of the NE provincial council: and order, public administration, local government, industries, infrastructure development, transport, culture, youth affairs, sports 4.environment, agriculture and land, fisheries and co-operatives., housing, women's affairs, social service, rural development

The exact number of members (11-17) in the advisory council is to be determined later.

Each party's position in Interim Council will be proportionate to its MPs from the Northeast.

The EPDP, TULF, PA, UNP, SLMC and the DPLF (political wing of PLOTE) are represented from the Northeast in the Parliament.

The council has been a long standing demand of the EPDP.

The group says it is a practical means of advancing its political interests among the Tamils. It claims that the council can be a remedy to many of the social and economic problems faced by the Tamil and Muslim people in the NE today.

But Tamil politicians and constitutional experts who reject it argue that the council would be an impotent body with nothing more than rubber stamp status.

They point out that the 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution under which the Provincial Councils were established was rejected by all the Tamil parties and groups for falling short even of their minimum expectations and aspirations regarding regional autonomy.

The status of the Interim Council is precarious and nebulous even under the provisions of the 13th amendment they say.

The opponents of the council pointed out that the Interim Council will be ineffective because the Sri Lanka Army runs the civil administration of each district of the north and east under the powers vested in it under the Public Security Ordinance of the constitution.

The TULF has strongly objected to it pointing out that it is a travesty of provincial autonomy.

Political analysts in Colombo said that the Interim Council is being set up hurriedly by the PA regime to secure the EPDP's services in the north and east of the island in time for the Presidential election on December 21.

The Tamil votes in the northeastern province is considered crucial for tilting the balance in the presidential elections.

The main contenders, the opposition UNP and the ruling PA, have been keenly wooing Tamil voters for this purpose.


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