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Government firm on land powers

2013 Sep 30

Sri Lankan provincial councils, including the Tamil-dominated Northern, will not have discretion over land and police matters and they will have to operate within the existing limits of power, the Press Trust of India quoted a government spokesman as saying.


“Provincial councils would have to operate within the existing limits (of powers),” Minister of Information and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.


The Northern Chief Minister-elect K.C. Wigneswaran was no stranger to these limitations of powers for provinces as he was a judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. Rambukwella said.


His comments came as the main Tamil party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) met in Colombo on Sunday to deliberate on the future functioning of the Northern Provincial Council.


He said this week’s Supreme Court determination that land powers are the preserve of the Central government would invalidate the TNA’s claim for land-controlling powers in the north.


The Supreme Court on Thursday annulled an earlier Appeal Court ruling that provinces have the right to exercise land powers.


“It is very clear now, the government can’t devolve land powers by contravening the constitution,” Mr. Rambukwella said.


The TNA won 30 out of 36 seats in last week’s first-ever Northern Provincial elections in 25 years in the former war-torn region.


Their campaign was based on a programme to force the Central government into fully implementing the 1987 India-backed 13th Amendment.


The councils were created under the 13th Amendment, a byproduct of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord.


However President Rajapaksa’s nationalist allies say unfettered powers to provinces would lead to Tamil-minority dream of separation of the island.

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