Wide powers for Basil’s Jana Sabhas

Provincial and local councils must seek their approval for development work

By Damith Wickremasekara

Legislation to establish Jana Sabhas countrywide to monitor development work will be presented in Parliament next month, a senior Cabinet Minister said yesterday.

These Sabhas will come under the purview of Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development.
“They will have powers to draw up their own budgets, development plans and seek financial allocations from the Central Government,” Petroleum Resources Minister and UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha told the Sunday Times.

Water Supply and Drainage Minister and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena added that these Sabhas would have multi-ethnic representation. In addition, school principals, religious leaders and others who have an insight on the needs of their respective areas would also be included.

Minister Premajayantha said that any project of the Provincial Council or the respective local authority would need to have approval of the Jana Sabha in the area. Failing to gain such approval would mean that they could not go ahead with the project, he added.

The Jana Sabhas would also have control on how the decentralized budget for MPs -- meant for development in the area -- would be spent, he added. The Jana Sabha would have the authority to monitor projects of the Provincial Council or the respective local council and take action to stop such projects which are not being carried out in a proper way.

Each Jana Sabha would cover an area of three to four local councils and the head of it would be one of the members elected to the councils. A graduate would be appointed as the secretary and an advisory committee comprising representatives of the villages would be set up to advise on development work. The respective Divisional Secretaries would also be members of the Jana Sabhas.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa said the government’s objective was to make the Jana Sabhas as the strongest institution responsible for development work. “The ultimate objective of this concept is to ensure that the development work is closely monitored by a small group that has an awareness of the needs of the area”, he said.

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