PC elections: Cabinet to discuss President’s proposals | Sunday Observer

PC elections: Cabinet to discuss President’s proposals

President Maithripala Sirisena’s Cabinet paper proposing to hold the Provincial Council elections before May 31, is to be considered by the Cabinet of Ministers when they meet on Tuesday, Home Affairs and Provincial Councils Minister Vajira Abeywardena said, adding that some important decisions with regard to the election might be taken thereafter.

The news of the President preparing a Cabinet paper on the PC election was leaked prior to a tough speech by Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya at a recent press conference last week, where he issued an ultimatum that he will step down from the Chairman’s post as a mark of protest if the PC election was not held before the Presidential election due this year.

The President is said to have prepared the Cabinet paper before Deshapriya’s comments to the media on Monday.

Minister Abeywardena said the President’s Cabinet paper will be circulated among the political parties with his ministry also receiving a copy to consider the proposals therein, subsequent to the Cabinet meeting.

“The issue here is that the President wants the 25% representation for women included, which means that we cannot simply revert to the old system of elections to break the current deadlock,” he said.

He said the President also wants to fill the seats earlier occupied by women and currently have fallen vacant, only with female representatives. “This means we have to bring in certain amendments because these were proposals in the new electoral system. The old system did not allocate a particular percentage of seats for females,” he said.

Therefore, it will not be easy to revert back to the old system of elections and empower the Election Commission to hold the delayed PC election, he pointed out. To revert to the old system, a simple amendment would have sufficed to the particular Section to say, ‘the PC election will be held under the old system until the delimitation process is completed.’

The former Provincial Council and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha, a champion of more female representation, also echoed this sentiment on Friday stressing the importance of retaining the 25% quota.

This particular section on women candidates was introduced in the mixed electoral system which is struggling to see the light of day since 2017. It will also scrap the highly unpopular preferential system.

The Chairman earlier last week said, “Delaying an election is as bad as having a rigged election.”

The terms of six of the nine Provincial Councils have expired and are being run by the Governors, meaning that they have fallen under the direct purview of the President. Their terms expired intermittently between 16 to 4 months ago.

He said in order not to run into chaos, they need to hold the Provincial Council election at least by August. “By November this year we must hold the Presidential election, and therefore we must finish the PC election before that,” Deshapriya explained. The Minister said a select committee should be appointed by him as the Minister, to consider the amendments proposed. The President has also proposed that polls should be held in the nine Provinces together.

“Thus, the three provincial councils which are still functioning will have to be dissolved before their terms end to make way for elections on a single day,” he added, declining to comment when the Select Committee will be appointed.

By May this year, two more PCs will end their terms and the term of the Uva Provincial Council will expire by September, 2019.

Menawhile, JVP MP Vijitha Herath expressing his party stand last week, said the country needed a general election, not a Presidential or a Provincial Council election, to appoint a new parliament and set the country’s course straight while salvaging it from the current predicament. The SLPP and the SLFP by and large have been supporting early PC elections in all nine Provinces together under the old system.

Election Commission Chairman invited the civil society to move Courts to push for amendments to the law and empower the Election Commission to hold the long delayed PC election. Adding that their wings were clipped in a situation like this, the Chairman said the independent election observers - PAFFREL and CMEV - are contemplating legal action against the delay.

However, legislators across the entire political spectrum showed how uninterested they were on electing new members to the crippled PC bodies when an adjournment debate on the Provincial Council election was suspended due to lack of quorum in the House last Wednesday. The debate was moved by MP Dullas Alahapperuma.