Provincial Councils May Face Overcrowding

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha

There would be small changes to the number of provincial councils, according to the new electoral system. Accordingly the number of members in each Provincial Council (PC) will double. This will create another issue which is that there would not be sufficient space to accommodate all the members. The number of members at the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) will increase from 53 to 110. In this manner the number of members in each of the provincial councils will increase to about double its current number.

As a provincial council term is for four years, council meetings are held throughout that period. Hence, the Executive Director of People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said attention should be paid to the space issue. He said due to the increase in the number of members there could be the issue of overcrowding which would affect the activities of the PCs. He pointed out that with the increase in the numbers of members, building facilities, toilet and rest room facilities, cafeterias, parking etc will invariably increase and as such new premises will have to be sought with all adequate facilities in order to accommodate this increase in the number of members.

In addition to the above mentioned space related issue there are other problems too that could arise with the new electoral system. With the increase in member numbers, more money would be required for the payment of their wages and to provide all the required facilities mentioned above and also for rentals etc as new and more spacious buildings will have to be rented to accommodate the increase in the number of members and funds for their welfare activities. This additional money will definitely have to come off the allocations for the welfare of the general public. This in turn will have an impact on the people of this country.

Further as Sri Lanka has signed the Open Public Partnership Agreement, it is a requirement to construct public viewing galleries for every provincial council. Hence the government will definitely have to come up with an alternative mechanism. Moreover, since the increase of female representation is compulsory at the elections, facilities for females at the provincial councils will also have to be taken into consideration.

Meanwhile, according to the new election system, 8,436 members would be appointed to each of the local bodies which earlier consisted of only 4,430. Similarly, the expenditure to maintain this additional number of members, the government would also have to double its allocations. However, what political critics point out is whether such a large number of members is actually required?

Generally a provincial councilor is provided lesser facilities than what is given to a member of parliament. Accordingly, in 2016 the allocation for provincial councils and local bodies was Rs. 50921 million. This is the fourth highest budgetary allocation. The Central Bank confirms this.

According to the reports of allowances made to PC members until November 2014, the Chairman of a PC gets Rs. 25,000 allowance, his deputy 20,000, a provincial councilor Rs. 15,000, Mayor Rs. 30,000, Deputy Rs. 25,000 and members Rs. 20,000.

During the Rajapaksa regime, provincial Councilors’ were given motorcycles and they had to pay Rs. 50,000 for it, while the rest was borne by the government. Each councilor was provided with One million rupees for the development of a village. Accordingly around Rs. 100 million was spent by the government for the PC member allowances every month.

Meanwhile, according to Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha, 99 percent of all arrangements have been completed for the staging of the elections. Accordingly, the new mixed electoral system for the Local Government bodies follows a First-Past-the-Post (FPP) representation 60 percent and Proportional Representation (PR) 40 percent ratio. Female representation of 25 percent has also been made mandatory.

However, The Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on 25, August with a majority of 120 votes providing for holding the long overdue Local Government elections under a new electoral system. Following a division called by the Joint Opposition, 120 members voted for the Bill, while 44 abstained. The much awaited Local Government polls will finally be held in January 2018. Minister Musthapha will issue the Gazette Notification shortly.

The electoral system that this election is to be held is being brought after around 40 years.

Out of a total of 329  local government bodies  there are 23 Municipal Councils, 41 Urban Councils and 275 Pradeshiya Sabhas.  In general, Municipal Councils are established for cities and large towns, Urban Councils for less urbanized areas and Pradeshiya Sabhas for rural areas. Although it is usually considered that Municipal Councils and Urban Councils are “urban” local authorities while Pradeshiya Sabhas are “rural” ones, there is no formal definition of “rural” and “urban.

However despite the increase in the numbers, it is a welcoming factor that the elections will finally be held in January and it is then up to them to iron out all other issues to pave the way for the smooth functioning of these local bodies

3 Comments for “Provincial Councils May Face Overcrowding”

  1. Eng.M.V.R.Perera

    Can our Country afford Provincial Councils and increases of members of Parliament and local councils as far as I am aware it cost Rs 60 million to maintain a Minister of Parliament it may be close to that amount to maintain Provincial Council Ministers, what about deputy ministers, state ministers members of parliament ect. the exact amount we can never know although this government brought in the rti act that commission is only a heavy burden on we the people as I have sent for necessary action to chairman rti sent through RTI 01, requesting him to take necessary action against 3 organization and asking from him what is the present position his reply was why are you requesting so many rti information and when I replied they are from different organizations with 4 reminders no response.
    If I had the Funds I would have filed a FR petition in Supreme under 126(5) which stipulates that a petition that is filed in the supreme court should be completed within 2 months of filing the petition, stating that the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement was forced down our throats by India which we Sri Lankans can never forget or forgive and it should be abolished as India did not fulfill the main part of the bargain of disarming the LTTE which has cost over a 100000 Sri Lankan Lives and several billion US $ loss financially to our country those responsible TNA, India and LTTE fronts in several foreign countries be made responsible and English be made the language of study from the kindergarten upwards to avoid segregated schools which at present is the cause of communal tension in our country. English being the language to the internet all our citizens young and old would want to learn English and the assistant of the British Council could be obtained to make our countryman proficient in English within a few months

  2. Dhammika

    TRULY SPEAKING the PC system is a white elephant that should be abolished.

  3. Sri Lankan

    When the call of the people is for the abolishing of the Provincial Council System,
    which has been labelled a WHITE ELEPHANT, the Govt. goes on to increase the
    number of it’s members two- fold!
    More members in the PCs and Pradesiya. Sabhas. means more crooked characters creeping into them. and, the tax payers of the country will have to
    grin and bear the burdens and not benefit from them.

    WHO WANTS THESE ???

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