The Supreme Court on Monday suspended a directive by the Northern Provincial Council’s Chief Minister, CV Wigneswaran, on procedures to be followed henceforth by senior public servants in the Northern Province in their duties.
The decision relates to a complaint filed by the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province, Vijayalukshmy Ramesh, that Mr. Wigneswaran was through his directive interfering with her work.
However, the legal tussle is seen by analysts as proxy for a deeper struggle in which the Chief Minister, who is elected, is resisting domination of the Council’s activities by the Province’s powerful Governor, who is appointed by Colombo.
Provincial councils were established by the 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution. Whilst provincial public servants have to report to two centres of power, the Board of Ministers led by the CM and the Governor, the latter is ultimately more powerful in directing their work.
The ‘Administrative Standing Instructions’ issued Mr. Wigneswaran required that the Council’s Chief Secretary, Secretaries and Heads of Department henceforth liaise via the elected board of ministers, rather than directly, with the Governor.
In response, Ms. Ramesh filed a Fundamental Rights Violation petition against the Chief Minister.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Mr. Wigneswaran’s directive would be suspended until Ms. Ramesh’s petition was heard. A hearing has been fixed for July 14th.