The Business Times (BT) and the Colombo-based Research and Consultancy Bureau (RCB) conducted a first-time survey cum poll on the viability of provincial councils. Based on calls by Minister Wimal Weerawansa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa among others for the 13th amendment (provincial councils) to be scrapped, the survey was conducted at two levels: through [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Most people in Sri Lanka say PCs are a failure

BT-RCB Poll on Provincial Councils

The Business Times (BT) and the Colombo-based Research and Consultancy Bureau (RCB) conducted a first-time survey cum poll on the viability of provincial councils.

Based on calls by Minister Wimal Weerawansa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa among others for the 13th amendment (provincial councils) to be scrapped, the survey was conducted at two levels: through street interviews and on email.

The RCB team fanned out across to the regions of Anuradhapura, Galle, Kandy, Badulla, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Colombo in a mega exercise covering seven provinces. The poll was not undertaken in Jaffna as no provincial council exists but comments were sought on this system from the people. A total of 300 respondents were interviewed in each location making it a total of 1,800 people excluding Jaffna. The email poll drew 400 responses.

The results as seen in the graphic have been broken into three categories – street poll, email poll and the combined result.
The combined poll (third category) shows that 70 per cent of the respondents said the provincial councils have not been assigned enough powers while 73 per cent said life hasn’t improved under this system.

Some 68.8 per cent said infrastructure facilities haven’t improved under PCs.

In terms of the analysis, Anuradhapura gave the strongest negative vote with 67 per cent of the 300 respondents (in that area) responding with a NO. In the second and third questions too, Anuradhapura had the highest number of NOs. Batticaloa had the second highest number of NOs to the first question while Kandy followed Anuradhapura in the second and third questions with the highest number of NOs.

A detailed breakdown of the area-wise analysis will be published next week.

Given below are detailed comments from the poll across Sri Lanka:

Western Province (Nugegoda)

Development at the cost of COL is not development

Whatever work done by PCs people cannot live a decent life. It is useless constructing roads and developing other things. Prices of goods have increased. Everything has gone up in price. So how can people eat and live? Nothing is going to help if you are hungry. By developing towns and spending money the price of food items are going up. All this development is done by borrowing money. People have to pay for the loans. Taxes are increased and so is the price of goods.

Not having a good living at all. Nothing from the Provincial Council. Nothing

Only if requested from Government things are done but there is nothing done by PCs.

In some village areas, some roads have been rehabilitated and carpeted by the PC. But this is not the case in all areas.

Because of Basil Rajapaksa, many roads have been repaired in Gampaha. I am not sure whether this was done at the initiative of the government, the provincial council or for a private reason.

I wrote several letters to the council to get a lot of work done. I never received a reply. But I got a reply to my letter to the Defense Ministry.

We are not at all benefited.

Even though some things are being done in Colombo we have to develop infrastructure more. Gardens are being constructed for the rich. There is not even a toilet constructed for lower classes. They don’t even maintain the ones that exist.

Education is completely ignored by the PCs. All the decisions are taken by SB and Bandula. Even though children seek admission to schools in the province, final decisions are taken by the ministers.

Poor service in hospitals. But the appointments given by the Health Department and central government are routed through the PCs. It’s easy to give political appointments that way.

PCs? Waste of time. Everything is done by the central government. Since the President is the Minister of High ways he is making all the roads in Colombo with the army building and beautifying the city. Provincial councils are not building even village roads. Even if they build they break in no time, because of shoddy work by contractors. After doing that they put up boards with the faces of provincial councilors and bogus expenditure figures.

There is development in roads and education. But I am not sure whether it is being done by the provincial council or by someone else.

I think most of the development in the Western Province is done by the government because most of the ministers are residing in Colombo.

Development in the Western and Southern Provinces are not done by the PCs. It is being done by the President’s family.

Infrastructure development is only in the city. The province is a large area. Actually the Council must develop the area out of the city too. Interior roads in Ratmalana break up a few days after construction. They don’t even think of re-doing it. When we give letters to officials to repair roads they say the money has to be passed.

Southern Province (Galle)

Call for honest persons to run PCs

Various political parties should nominate honest, young and educated persons to the provincial council.

Prevailing laws should be changed so that work undertaken by the provincial council are carried out independently without bowing down to the central government.

Abolish the provincial councils which eat up about 50 per cent of public money, and get things done through the central government which has many ministers and deputy ministers.

Provincial councilors who are just eating, drinking and wasting time and revert to the system where the country was governed from the centre.

The country should be governed under a single government encompassing all communities.

Reduce the number of ministers in the central government and give more powers to the provincial councils.

Instead of going after provincial councils, central government authorities swallowing funds that should go to the provinces must be stopped.

The central government is obliged to provide sufficient funds for the needs of the councils.

Amend constitution so that chief ministers and provincial ministers are not permitted to hold office for only two years. Educated and experienced young people should run these councils.

The government should stop waste and mismanagement in councils and dissolve them.

When we see how the government has taken charge of the judiciary and the police and the evil that has been created, one can only imagine the damage caused by the government through the councils.

The President is destroying all forces that are against him and we can just imagine what he is capable of doing by using the councils.

These are manipulated and run on his whims and fancies. Such councils cannot perform any useful duty by the people.

The councils exist for a segment to abuse funds and earn money through crooked means.

Central Province (Kandy)

Provincial councils are corrupt

The government is trying to abolish the provincial councils since India is pressurizing it to establish a Northern Provincial Council.

The plan to revise the 13th amendment is a tactic to divert attention from the ongoing conflict between the government and judiciary. It’s like changing the mindset of the public.

PCs eat up government funds and people’s tax money more than developing the regions.

With massive public expenditure, a big cabinet and a large parliament we cannot afford to have costly provincial administrations in this small country.

This is not a big country like India. It’s a joke to break the country into small bits and govern the country under provincial councils. This was a plan by JR. Rajapakse must remove it.

Chief Ministers are the biggest culprits. They are doing business under the guise of provincial councils.

We must change the management structure of PCs and direct the administration of the country towards a development strategy. The present set up is outdated and the councils are corrupt.

It’s a national crime to have a large group of councilors; spending for elections; paying salaries and their upkeep in both PCs and urban councils.

PCs are suitable for countries with five times the size of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the size of one state in those countries and it is a waste of national wealth to maintain these units.

PCs cannot tackle natural disasters or emergencies and function only when a government minister visits the area.

Revise the rules of the provincial councils immediately and put in place proper procedures for nominating capable and intelligent persons for the councils.

The government must stop irregularities and frauds in the councils and punish those responsible. If this cannot be done, scrap these regional bodies.

PCs should have the freedom to act according to a set plan of their own with government guidance. The system of government having full control of the councils should be done away with.

* Strengthen provincial councils and restore the confidence of the public in these units. What we see today is the gradual deterioration of the councils.

North-central Province (Anuradhapura)

Full of vagabonds

PCs today are full of cutthroats, rogues and vagabonds who do not respect the law or principles. They are of no use to the public.

The NCP PC is full of men who are out to find others’ mistakes. They destroy the PC while some ministers are corrupt and helped by members of their families.

None in the PCs know their duty but are there for personal benefits. This is a curse on the nation.

JR was caught in an Indian trick. But today’s politicians need to take advantage of the set up. They need to develop the country rather than waste money.

PCs need to be strengthened with modifications and a new formula.

Due to lack of finances PCs have become useless. Stop bribe-taking, not allocations.

PCs dance to the tune of the central government.

PCs hold views different to the central government. This is not yielding positive results and results in the public being the losers.

Eastern Province (Batticaloa)

PC developed region after end of war

The administration won via a single party with majority votes but the government stole the PC. They threatened people and appointed one of their goons as a chief minister. This is undemocratic.

What the Sinhala-dominated government did always was to work according to their agenda. This is discrimination of minority parties.

Though PCs were meant to settle ethnic problems, it is the central government that runs the administration. Decentralization is a misnomer where the government retains some power from each party. A PC should get total power.

There were problems during the war days but it is over. Thus why not all powers being vested in the PC? Then there will be a flawless administration which will help the state too.

PCs were set up to win the war and lessen government’s problems and to provide equal treatment to all ethnic groups. After the victory, power is not vested in PCs as expected but the government is bent on destroying PCs which is unreasonable.

PC administration should not be given to government henchmen but locals of the area. PCs can’t run with stooges who will do anything the central government wants.

The end of war has resulted in a marked progress in this area as the needs of the people have been understood by the PC.

More finances should be allocated to PCs without cuts. This is required for an unbroken success in development work of the PC.

Provinces always need PCs. (Minister) Weerawansa or (politician Udaya) Gammanpila know nothing about PCs.

The PC system should work if the province is to benefit.

Whatever criticism, the President said that he would improve the PC system. We are sure he would do it.

Some want to be popular on the 13th amendment. They cannot destroy the PCs or the 13th amendment. They fear that PCs will get more powers.

Uva Province (Badulla)

Provincial councils are effective

Full powers should be given to PCs apart from police and land which must be under central government control.

PCs need to have rules suited to the area with all communities benefiting as state control here is not welcome.

Waste of money.

Curse of JR under cover of settling the ethnic issue. Rajapaksa simply tows the line while criticising the system. The public has to suffer the consequences.

PCs are filled with bribery and corruption. They cheat on taxes, help the rich and only those in government are the beneficiaries of this deadly system.

PCs, if working properly, can reduce the burden of the central government. People need not go to Colombo for their work but resolve these in the area itself.

The country runs on PCs. Though the central government starts the work (in regions) it is the PCs that control it. Therefore PCs are needed whatever opponents may say.

Northern Province (Jaffna):

KP should be kicked out of the North

It is wrong for the government to assign a man like KP to obtain the advantage from PCs. The government wants to control the north through KP who was branded (by the government) as a Tiger earlier.

The government has no intention of giving the Tamils full freedom. They give false promises to the TNA. There is no justice for the Tamils.

Tamils in the North should get their own representatives via the vote and are entitled to the powers of PCs given to other regions.

What else can the state do to the north except what was promised? Education, roads and other works are their responsibility. Instead of robbing 50 per cent of the contract on the excuse of development, serious development must be done.

Work in the name of development in the north is nothing but a scam. This must stop.

PCs were introduced to treat Tamils and others equally. But that is not happening.

The government is marking time till it swallows the north when elections are held.

An international watchdog should supervise the proposed northern province PC. The government should not cheat the people in the North like it does elsewhere in the country.

The government is dancing to the Indian tune in the administration of PCs. We cannot believe what the government does through KP.

Comments from the email poll:

PC system is a ‘white elephant’

PC system has become a ‘white elephant’.

What has to be done is to amend the 13 amendment after a thorough analysis by an All Party Committee to devolve some (uncontroversial) powers. Thus the councils could manage peripheral affairs that the centre cannot control effectively because of distance and which have a strong direct effect on the lives in the regions like agriculture, fisheries, rural industries and rural infrastructure.

Another problem is the excessive number of rural institutions. The Pradeshiya Sabha system should be abolished and not PCs. Grama Sabhas (Village Councils) could be re-established since villagers should not be compelled to go to the PCs for any basic development work.

The need to satisfy the demand for bribes by provincial councilors has become an impediment to investments in the provinces. There is also a lot of media coverage of the acts of violence by provincial councilors and their agents.

District Councils proposed by a Tamil politician from Batticaloa to meet the day to day needs of the population is a better option.

An independent survey has to be carried out to determine whether Provincial Councils have done a better job than the agencies of the central government, taking into consideration what percentage of tax payers’ money was actually spent on these infrastructure facilities.

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