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Delimitation simplified

Not compulsory to review delimitation in all districts, says Committee head Asoka Peiris:

The committee appointed to review the 2012 National Delimitation Committee Report will complete the delimitation review and gazette its report by June this year.

Delimitation Review Committee Chairman Asoka Peiris

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Chairman of the Delimitation Review Committee, Asoka Peiris said it was not compulsory to review delimitation in all districts, as these districts did not submit a large number of appeals.

He said the argument in certain quarters, that if three months was spent to review delimitation in six districts, it would take an even longer time frame to review it in the other 19 districts was not logical. "After the National Delimitation Committee report is released, there was no possibility of appointing a similar committee, but if there were shortcomings in the Report, the Local Government Minister can appoint a Delimitation Review Committee to seek the views of the public and political parties and make amendments to that report. "This is what we are doing right now in accordance with the law," he said.

According to the National Delimitation Committee Report, there are 4,888 Wards and amendments have been proposed to nearly 2,200 Wards. "At present, we are dealing with these amendments. We wanted to complete the activities of the delimitation review committee by April 15, 2016. However, the government has indicated that Local Government Elections were going to be delayed," he said.

"There are a series of technical errors in the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act No.22 of 2012. The Elections Department has identified 57 such technical errors. These errors have been rectified by the Elections Department and these documents have been sent to the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry and have been forwarded to the Legal Draftsman. The Act should be redrafted with the amendments.The elections will then have to be postponed," he said.

"This has enabled the Delimitation Review Committee to fulfill its task at the normal pace. We hope to complete the delimitation process and gazette it by June this year. Now we are demarcating new Wards and changing the composition. After the composition is changed, boundaries will also change and will be demarcated in a new map," he said.

Not compulsory

Peiris noted that it was not compulsory to review delimitation in all districts, as there were not many appeals from these districts. "For example, only a few appeals have been made from the Moneragala District. When the National Delimitation Committee Report was formulated, a District Committee was appointed at district level which consisted of the District Secretary of the relevant district, a representative of the Department of Elections, Provincial Ministry of Local Government of the Provincial Council, Survey General's Department, Department of Census and Statistics and a public officer nominated by the Minister," he said.

"The National Delimitation Committee held discussions with the District Committees set up in each district. However, the district reports in certain districts differ when compared with the final Report. However, in some districts, there was no big difference. Moneragala was one such. We don't need to review the Delimitation Report in the Moneragala district," he said.

"The argument put forward by certain quarters that if three months lapsed to review delimitation in six districts, it would take even longer to do it in the other 19 districts is not logical. The delimitation review in the Northern and Eastern provinces can be completed in two days and there are only eight districts in these two provinces. Political party representatives in the Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts have already discussed their issues with us so there is no need to go back to those districts. There are some delimitation issues in Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, but these three districts can be covered in one week. There is no need to review the delimitation carried out in the rest of the districts. The delimitation review committee will shortly go to Matara, Polonnaruwa, Hambantota and Ratnapura districts to review the shortcomings in their delimitation process," he said.

When asked about the Joint Opposition's claim that President Maithripala Sirisena had gazetted the local authorities with new Wards in September 2015 and the government should adhere to the gazette notification and declare the Local Government polls before March 31, the chairman said they make such statements due to a lack of understanding of the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act No.22 of 2012.

Gazetted

"The National Delimitation Committee was appointed in 2012 and its report was gazetted by the President on August 21, 2015. After the National Delimitation Committee report was released and another committee cannot be appointed. But if there are shortcomings in the report, the Local Government Minister can appoint a delimitation review committee to seek the views of the public and the political parties to make amendments to that report. This is what we are doing right now in keeping with the law. The five-member Delimitation Review Committee was appointed under my chairmanship in November last year which is also represented by the members of the UNP, UPFA, JVP and TNA," he said.

Dissolution

"The dissolution of local government bodies, holding elections and delimitation are three different aspects. The dissolution, extension of the tenure of local bodies and calling for elections are political issues which are solely under the purview of the political authority and it has nothing to do with the Delimitation Review Committee as it has been appointed only to rectify shortcomings in the National Delimitation Committee Report," he said.

"According to Clause 3D (1) of the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act No.22 of 2012, the Minister can alter boundaries of Wards as published in the Order under Section 3 C. Further the alternations shall be made on the recommendations of a Delimitation Review Committee consisting of five persons appointed by the Minister. As mentioned in the Act, the next Local Government election should be held under a Ward basis.

The National Committee shall in making its recommendations for the division of a local authority area into Wards, should take into consideration the ratio of the ethnic composition of the local authority area concerned and the need to ensure representation on the basis of ethnic ratio; the geographical area of the local authority and its physical features; the population of the local authority area and the density of such population and the level of economic development of the local authority area. In most of the areas this criteria has not been followed when the local authorities areas were divided into Wards," he said. Elaborating on some of the discrepancies which existed in the Wards, Peiris said Samanthurai, Uhana and Dehiattakandiya Pradeshiya Sabhas have a similar population ratio of 60,000 people, but the Samanthurai Pradeshiya Sabha had 10 members, Uhana 17 and Dehiattakandiya 21 members. The population in the Kuchchaveli Pradeshiya Sabha is 33,000, Padavi Sri Pura 12,000, Morawewa 8,000 and Gomarankadawala 7,500, but 10 members are elected to each of these Pradeshiya Sabhas. This clearly shows that Wards have not been divided on ethnic composition of the area. Geographical, economic aspects and the density of the population have also not been taken into consideration. The National Delimitation Committee had not consulted political parties or other civil organisations. In some instances, Wards have been divided without any representation being given to the Tamil and Muslim communities.

Timeframe

"Earlier, a timeframe was given of up to November 30 last year to hand over appeals. Later this time frame was extended to December 15 and 31. But we cannot reject appeals made even after the stipulated timeframe. Even after February 20 this year, over 80 letters were received.

The committee has received over 700 appeals which have direct consequences to nearly 2000 wards. According to the mandate given to the Delimitation Review Committee, we cannot increase the number of members in local government bodies. We can only rectify errors in the Delimitation Committee Report. Multi member electorates are decided based on ethnic composition," he said.

 

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