Sri Lanka plans to hold provincial council polls towards year end: Minister

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Colombo, Mar 30 (PTI) Sri Lanka plans to hold the long-pending council elections in all of its nine provinces towards the year end and the government will soon discuss the issue with all political parties, a senior minister said.

The decision was taken during a Cabinet meeting on Monday where the subject of holding the provincial council polls was discussed at length.

'The Cabinet last night discussed at length the issue of provincial councils and the government hoped to hold them the latest by the year end,' said senior minister S M Chandrasena.

He said the government will soon have a detailed consultation with all the political parties on the issue.

The announcement assumes significance as India has been advocating the early holding of the elections for all nine provinces, which has been stalled since 2018.

India at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week stressed that there is a need for Sri Lanka to hold provincial elections as soon as possible.

Last week, India abstained from voting in a resolution adopted by the UNHRC against Sri Lanka’s rights record, which calls upon the Sri Lankan government to ensure prompt thorough and impartial investigation, if warranted, prosecution of all alleged crimes relating to human rights violations and serious violations of international human rights law during the country's three decade-long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

India has said its stand on the matter is governed by two considerations: support to the minority Tamils and stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

The provincial elections to provinces were held up due to a legal snag involving the Delimitation Commission report.

The report became necessary in order to reform the system from the present proportional representation.

The Delimitation Review Committee report should have been submitted in Parliament in 2018. The process came to be affected by the constitutional crisis in October 2018 when the then prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked and later reappointed.

The provincial councils were added to the Sri Lankan statutes as a result of a direct Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority issue.

India proposed province based devolution in terms of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987 under the then Indian Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi.

On the electoral system reform, Chandrasena said most parties favoured the first past the post system for provincial councils discarding the current proportional representation system. PTI CORR RUP ZH AKJ ZH ZH