PC farce
The antics of our political parties being enacted live and free for all to see in the continuing farce at the Western Province Provincial Council would be hilarious, if they were not so tragic.

The jockeying for power and place, especially the post of Chief Minister is a tragicomedy even Hollywood scriptwriters would find hard to match and symptomatic of the dirty politics, nay, 'politricks ' of Sri Lanka.

It is political gamesmanship at its lowest. The UNP which introduced a vote of no-confidence on the incumbent Chief Minister Reginold Cooray has done a complete volte-face following the JVP's walk-out from the UPFA coalition and now backs a vote of confidence to have the Chief Minister they helped dethrone, back in the saddle.

Why? The party's own leader in that council says it was because "there is an agreement" and says no more. Need he say anymore?

The UNP leadership might have grander plans of sidelining the JVP and splitting the PA, but nowhere in all this political skulduggery is there any discussion of the fundamental question here: The contents of the charges in the vote of no-confidence which include.

1. Requesting a commission of Rs. 5 million for garbage disposal, 2. Having sold some transport permit, 3. Misusing Council funds by allowing personal staff to draw monthly allowances not entitled to, 4. Requesting a commission from a British company for an electricity project, and the gory list goes on.

The UNP has forsaken its political principles at the altar of political expediency. This is indeed typical of the conduct that has repeatedly brought the UNP defeat at the hands of a disgusted electorate.

On the other hand, the President's actions are indicative of her position as the head of a tottering Government and a divided State.

Having first tried to talk the JVP out of supporting the UNP vote of no-confidence against Cooray and failed, she prorogued the elected Council, resorting to the practice started by the beleaguered President R. Premadasa when he prorogued Parliament in 1992. President Kumaratunga blithely exercises this Presidential privilege.

Then, she went on to appoint a committee - her own appointees - to inquire into the very serious allegations contained in the vote of no-confidence. And to compound this by-passing of the decision to probe the Chief Minister by a majority of the Council's elected members, up-to-date nothing has been heard from this Committee.

Instead of meeting the allegations, which if proven, should disqualify Mr. Cooray for life from political office he has taken advantage of the political fall-out of the JVP from the UPFA, and happily occupies the exalted seat of the Honourable Chief Minister of the Western Province in addition to being minister in charge of numerous ministries to boot.

Such is the political conduct that we are witnessing at a national-level as well. Politics being the art of the possible, has been turned into a fine art of the possible, but the picture is so smudged and ugly.

We have long said that the Provincial Council system was forced down the nation's throat by the Indians to appease the LTTE in 1987. This it obviously has not done. Instead it has been a useless white elephant reeking with corruption and soaking up public funds for its own administration. It has duplicated and complicated local administration, is enveloped in nepotism and is the breeding ground for political parasites.

It is plain to the common man that it has long outlived its purpose but the PA constituent partners and the JVP who burnt buses and power-lines opposing its introduction in 1987 having benefited from its largesse at the expense of the poor public -- vehicles, free diesel, fax machines, telephones and the like -- have been blinded to the folly of this useless system for nearly 20 years now.

All parties need to take stock of this reality. We have advocated a system closer to the District Development Council system of the 1980s as a form of better devolution of power to the peripheral areas, with the accent on development.

The Tamil parties that did not want the District Development Councils were probably right when they said that the Jaffna DDC elections were rigged - but their bigger objection which they never articulated was that the District was too small a unit for their larger objective of creating a contiguous land mass in the North and East extending from Jaffna to Ampara.

That was the reason for the merged North and East Provincial Council introduced for a year-in 1987 - and now recast in a miniature ISGA (Interim Self-Governing Authority) in the form of a P-TOMS (Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure).

But while the focus has been on the North and East, the Provincial Council system is simply creating havoc in the rest of the country. And the shenanigans at the Western Provincial Council these past weeks - the largest of all councils with as many as 102 elected members - bear ample testimony to this farce.

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