Colombo, December 5 (The New Indian Express): Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has warned that both India and Sri Lanka will break up if the powers now enjoyed by the Governors of the States or Provinces are taken away and handed over to the Provincial Chief Minister and the Provincial Council.
“It is through the role of the Governor that the provinces and the states are bound to the Center. If the powers of the Governor are taken away, both India and Sri Lanka will cease to be unified nations,” Rajapaksa said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The former President is now the putative head of a new political party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) composed of people disillusioned with President Maithripala Sirisena who currently heads the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
He slammed the recommendations of the sub-committee on “Center-Periphery Relations” which are now before the Steering Committee drafting a new constitution for Sri Lanka .
The sub-committee had recommended that the all powerful provincial Governor be reduced to the level of being the rubber stamp of the provincial Chief Minister and his Board of Ministers. The Governor would be appointed, not at the discretion of the President of Sri Lanka as at present, but with the concurrence of the provincial Chief Minister. He would not be able to control provincial officialdom or stop any statute being passed in the Provincial Council.
Rajapaksa criticized the sub-committee’s recommendation that powers over land and police be devolved to the provinces. This might mean that the Center will not be able to get the lands it wants, he said. He pointed out that even in India, the Center has the power to take any land, with or without the province’s consent.
If separate police forces are created for provinces to serve under the Provincial Councils, the Center would lose control over these forces .And if recruited on the basis of residence and ethnicity, and there are no inter-provincial transfers, the police forces in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces would be totally different in character from those in the rest of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa pointed out.
Lambasting the recommendation that courts should be able to nullify the declaration of Emergency, Rajapaksa said that the judiciary is not equipped to sit in judgment over the need for an Emergency.
“Every one knows that there are some elements who want to weaken the Sri Lankan State,” he remarked.
The former President opposed the recommendation that Sinhala and Tamil be official languages of Sri Lanka and said that the proposal of SJV Chelvanayakam and SWRD Bandaranaike was more suited to Sri Lanka. These leaders had said while Sinhala would be the official language, there would be provision for the “reasonable use of Tamil” especially in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This suggestion is comparable to the system in India in which while Hindi is the official language there are provisions for the use of Tamil, Malayalam etc.,
Rajapaksa also opposed the setting up of a “Constitutional Court” to go into cases of constitutional law on the grounds that it will be outside the present court system and be composed of “experts” as well as judges.
“We have concerns about the constitutional experts who will serve in the court,” the ex-President said.