select committee will meet on July 19

Parlimentary select committee     The Sri Lankan parliamentary select committee (PSC) on devolution will meet on July 19 despite boycott by opposition members, who say the meeting has been convened to strip provincial council of powers. “The PSC with 19 government MPs would meet as scheduled. The opposition is yet to name their allocation of 12 members,” Nimal Siripala de Silva, the senior minister and Chair of the PSC said today.

The PSC has been convened to look at powers of the 13A, and remove the provincial councils of land and police powers.

It is expected to recommend ways to strip the island’s 9 provincial councils with control over land and police issues ahead of the September’s northern provincial council election.

The government has separately framed two amendments which would mean that two or more councils would not be able to merge as one province. De Silva said the PSC would be the forum for all parties to air their views on provincial powers.

However the main Tamil party, TNA, the main opposition UNP and the main Muslim party Sri Lanka Muslim Congress have decided to skip the PSC meeting. The TNA announced yesterday that PSC was targeting a dilution of provincial powers which the party was not in agreement.

Announcing the SLMC decision today, the party leader Rauff Hakeem, who is also the minister of justice said, “The PSC must be put in the dust bin. There will be no main opposition, no TNA, no SLMC”. Hakeem, however, said his party would not leave the ruling UPFA coalition despite the differences over the 13A. “We won’t take any action to destabilise the government”, Hakeem stressed.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has come under pressure from his Sinhala majority nationalist allies to dilute powers of the provincial councils.

The nationalists warn that unfettered powers to provinces would lead to TNA achieving the dream of a separate state for Tamils.

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