Provincial councils of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka have legislative power over a variety of matters: agriculture, education, health, housing, land, local government, planning, police, road transport and social services. But successive central governments have refused to devolve land and police powers to the provinces. To consolidate the gains of good governance to the provinces, it would be a farsighted action for each provincial council to start consensus dialogue with all stakeholders including other provincial councils to share burden of governance with the central government. That would enable the Provincial councils to participate in the development process with the powers devolved to them. To do that it would be necessary to resolve the following outstanding matters:
Language of administration in the province – Every Provincial Council shall choose for their administrative purpose the language of the majority in that province as the official language. At the same time ensure that every person in the province is able to communicate in their own language and to this end provide facilities for the other official language to be used by the minorities in the province.
Linkage between Provinces – The provision to link two or more adjoining province is available; and any provincial council could review as preferred with a view to create a link with its neighbouring provincial councils. The desire to merge shall be passed as a motion in the respective provincial councils after holding debates to discuss pros and cons of the merger. Thereafter a request shall be made to the central government for consent and to fix a date to hold a referendum in the two provinces. The referendum shall not be nationwide, but limited only to the provinces to be merged. Thereafter meetings held in the provinces to be merged to get the consent of the people for linkage. The debates, meetings and the referendum could all be completed in a year. Even if the combined votes at the referendum gets a majority vote for a merger, the linkage shall only be effected if each province separately get a ‘yes’ vote from its people. Then the provinces shall be merged to form one administrative unit with one elected Provincial Council, one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers.
Statutes of Provincial Councils – Every Provincial Council should make statutes applicable to the Province for which it is established, with respect to any matter set out in the Provincial Council List. The new Northern Provincial Council lags behind other Provincial Councils in making statutes and needs to be rectified at the earliest. Thereafter act in accordance with the laws and statutes governing these matters. Some key subjects that are not resolved properly in all provincial councils causing a difficulty to development include maintaining public order and exercise of police powers within the province. Land within the province required for a provincial council subject and administer, control and utilize any state land within the province. Any state land required for the purposes of the government in a province, in respect of a reserved subject may be utilized on consultation with the relevant provincial council. Inter-provincial projects – such projects would comprise irrigation and land development schemes within its province utilizing water from rivers within the province which utilize water diversions from other province water systems.
Concurrent List – Based on experience gained all provincial councils should together review the present concurrent list and recommend to the central government for items from the list transferred to Provincial List or Reserved List with a view to eliminate the concurrent list.