Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 27 March 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Facelift for Colombo’s City administration

Five local authority areas to come under one umbrella:

Dr. Y. D. Nihal Jayathilaka

The people of this country once again exercised their franchise to elect Members to 234 Local Government bodies at the March 17, Local Government election and gave a mammoth victory for the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance confining the Opposition to only a few Local Government bodies.

The next few weeks can be a vital period in which the Local Government system will undergo major changes with the Government’s decision to establish Colombo Metropolitan Corporation to administer Colombo city and other major suburban Municipalities, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabas.

To get a clear view about the existing Local Government system and also the proposed changes in the Local Government system the Sunday Observer interviewed the Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils Dr. Y.D. Nihal Jayathilaka. Following are excerpts of the interview the Sunday Observer had with Dr. Jayathilaka:

Q: People of this country once again elected Members to 234 Local Government bodies. Could you explain the exact role of the Local Government authority ?

A: In our country there are some subjects which are very closely knitted with the lives of the people.

The subjects of public health, solid waste management, social welfare issues such as sports grounds, day care centres, pre-schools and libraries, maintenance of public fares, supply of sanitary facilities, water, development of rural and urban roads which are very close to the general public are being done by these local government bodies.

The Members were elected to the Local Government bodies to ensure that these facilities are made available to the general public in each Municipal Council, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabas.

It is the responsibility of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Municipal Councils, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabas and the elected Members of each Local body to ensure that people living in that local authority area receives their basic facilities and to supervise and monitor the mechanisms with regard to provision of those facilities to the public.

Q: What are the legal enactments which are in place to control these Local Government bodies ?

A: The Municipal Council Ordinance, the Urban Council Ordinance and the Pradeshiya Sabhas Act, are the three legal enactments controlling these local government bodies.

In Sri Lanka we have 335 Local Government bodies. Out of that elections were conducted in 234 Local Government bodies at the recently concluded elections.

Elections for some Local Government bodies were not held due to legal procedures with regard to rejection of nomination papers, and due to the ICC world cup matches. But election will be held for those local bodies also very soon. The Elections Commissioner will take a decision with regard to that.

Q:There were some proposals to hold the Local Government elections under a new system. What was the basic idea behind that proposed Act ?

A: The proposal was to hold Local Government elections on Divisional basis. The basic idea is to elect a member for a specific Local Council Division within that local authority area.

That Division may be inclusive of one to three Grama Seva Divisions. When people elected a member for that specific Division that person is totally responsible for the activities of that area.

For his or her political survival also the Member will have to work very closely with people and cater to the needs of the public. That proposal was made to make a qualitative improvement in the services rendered by the Local Government bodies.

At the same time such proposal would also help avoid the unwanted disputes among candidates for preferential votes when electing Members to the respective Local Government bodies.

That will also help reduce the large sum of monies spent by some candidates to be elected through preferential vote system. Under the preferential votes system there are possibilities for Members becoming a cat’s paw of moneyed people in need of funds for their elections campaigns.

Q:Why couldn’t this new system be implemented at the recently concluded Local Government elections?

A: It couldn’t be implemented as the Divisions proposed under this system were not demarcated. The demarcation of Divisions are done not only on the basis of the population in each Division.

The demarcation of Divisions should be done under specific criteria and it should be done according to the ethnic ratio of the respective area. To demarcate those Divisions we have to establish National and District Delimitation Commissions to decide on the Divisions.

As we did not have enough time to establish those Delimitation Commissions and decide on the Divisions of each Local authority area we could not hold elections under that system.

Q:When is the Government going to implement this new system ?

A: The Government has decided to present that Bill in the Parliament on April 5. The Government has come to a policy decision to hold elections for the balance Local Authorities under this new system after the Bill is passed in Parliament and the Divisions of each Local Authority area is decided by the respective Delimitation Commissions.

Q: Won’t there be any problem when conducting elections for the balance Local Authorities under this new system after conducting elections for majority of the Local Councils under the current system ?

A: The administrative systems of all Local authorities will function under this new system when the Act is passed in Parliament.

We cannot predict what kind of problem may arise when we run the Local Authorities established under the previous system in accordance with the new system.

Therefore, we are reviewing the problems that may arise when running those Local authorities under this new system.

Q:The Government has decided to establish Colombo Metropolitan Corporation. What is the reason for establishing this Corporation?

A: This is a new system we are going to administer the Colombo city after linking the city with relevant local authority areas adjoining it. This is practised in other countries. This system is there in Delhi and lot of other Asian countries. Under this new system we will create a new geographical area linking the relevant areas in the Colombo metropolitan area under a new Parliament Act.

Though this is new to Sri Lanka the system is being implemented in many major cities in the world.

It will include Colombo Municipal Council, Dehiwela Mount Lavinia Municipal Council, Kotte Municipal Council, Kolonnawa Urban Council and Kotikawatta, Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabhas.

Q:Why do we need to establish such a body to administer the Colombo City?

A: In the Colombo City we have a population of more than 600,000. Apart from that there is more than 400,000 population who are daily visiting the Colombo city for various purposes. Therefore, this is a very serious situation.

That is also one reason for the establishment of this Corporation. Apart from that we also expect to implement proper development programmes in this area to provide better facilities for those who permanently reside in these areas and also for those who are visiting these areas daily.

Q:What would be the future of the Local Government bodies existing in this region ?

A: Within this Colombo Metropolitan Corporation area all the Local Government bodies will exist. Elections will be held for these Local Authorities and Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen will be appointed for each Local Governing body.

Q: How will it be established whilst other Local Government bodies exist ?

A: By an Act of Parliament which is going to be presented soon, the Colombo Metropolitan Corporation will function as a competent central authority with wide scope of powers and functions to govern and develop the assigned geographical area as ‘Capital Territory’ of the Central Government.

Under the Act the President shall appoint a Governor as the state administrator of the Colombo Metropolitan Core area. The Governor shall hold the rank and status of a Provincial Governor, because of the uniqueness, special significance and paramount importance of the region to national growth and security.

He will be appointed for a term of six years and accountable to the President and through him to the Parliament , for all matters concerning the total administration of the area.

Q:What will be the administrative structure of this metropolitan corporation ?

A: The proposed Act of Parliament shall use the existing structures of local government to the maximum possible extent to provide for optimum decentralization of Corporation affairs to the local authorities where the Government system meets and interacts with the residents the most.

To make the Corporation more transparent and effective, the Governor shall have powers to restructure the human resources and cadres administrating it

Q: What would be the organisational structure of the Metropolitan Council ?

A: It will have an organisational structure consisting of two support engines the Legislative Wing and the Executive Wing.

The Legislative Wing will be led by a metropolitan Council that consists of Governor of the Colombo Metropolitan Corporation, all elected Heads of the local government authorities, and an elected councillor nominated by the group of opposition party members in each of the constituent local authorities.

These members will have a voting rights. Apart from that Secretaries or their delegates of the Ministries of Defence, Local Government and Provincial Councils, Urban Development, Environment and Health, the Chief Secretary of the Western Provincial Council and the Commissioner General of the Colombo Metropolitan Corporation will be the Ex-officio members of the Legislative without voting rights.

The Council will be chaired by the Governor and the Council Secretary will functioning as the Secretary and may attend the Council meeting to provide required guidance and secretarial services. The Council shall meet once a month to transact business given in the Council agenda.

Q:With the establishment of this Colombo Metropolitan Council what would happen to the decisions taken at the Council meetings of the respective Local Authorities ?

A: According to the proposed Act some subjects and issues will be within the purview of the respective Local authority. For instance a construction of a parapet wall, drainage line, the respective council can take their own decision.

Only the important issues of economic value and policy will be taken for discussion at the Metropolitan Council. The budget proposals, town planning and other important issues will be discussed at the Metropolitan Council level.

Apart from that the project that may be implemented with the assistance of funding agencies and other organizations will also be coordinated through the Metropolitan Council.

Q: Will this Council have powers to cancel any decision taken by the Local Government Council ?

A: Absolutely. They will discuss the decisions taken at the Local Council level with the assistance of the expert panel and will take the final decision at the Metropolitan Council.

But still we are discussing the subjects and issues that should be forwarded to the Metropolitan Council for consideration and the things that can be decided at the Local Council level. Once these subjects and issues are clarified there won’t be any problem.

There won’t be a situation the Metropolitan Council can cancel the decisions taken at the Local Council level once this situation is clarified. But if there is any complaint against any decision taken at the Local Council level the Metropolitan Council can look into that.

Q: The Opposition is complaining that the Government has come up with this proposal to cover up its defeat at some Local Councils which are in favour of the Opposition. Is there any truth behind this ?

A: There is no reason for the Opposition to complain against this system as the Local Government elections will be held in the respective local authorities as usual.

The Members to the Metropolitan Legislative Council will be appointed according to the ratio of Members elected to each Local Council. The Metropolitan Legislative Council will comprise the Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of elected to the respective Local Council. But the Council will be Chaired by the Governor.

Q:When will this Bill be presented to Parliament ?

A: We have already handed our proposals to the Legal Draughtsman’s Department and the Bill will be drafted very soon to be presented in Parliament within the shortest possible time. When the Bill is presented to parliament the Opposition can also propose amendments to that Bill.

Q:The Government is also mulling the ‘Jana Saba’ concept. Will this be an alternative for the existing Local Government bodies or is it different from the Local Government system ?

A: “Jana Saba’ concept is not an alternative to the Local Government concept. What we expect from ‘Jana Saba concept is to strengthen the public participation in the Local government system.

That process will be included in the Constitution under this concept. This will go to the grass roots at the Local Authority Division level and people will be able to work along with the Members of the Local Government bodies.


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