By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Government yesterday informed the Supreme Court that the Delimitation Committee Report would be gazetted within one month, when the fundamental rights petition filed by People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) was taken up in court.
Represented by Counsel Romesh de Silva PC, with Sugath Caldera, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Mustapha informed the Supreme Court the gazette was not delayed on purpose but the committee was still preparing the report based on the recommendations given and evaluating the appeals relating to delimitation.
He added that the report would be gazetted as soon as it was received.
Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, appearing for the Elections Commissioner and the Attorney General, informed Court that the Elections Commissioner would act according to the law when the report was gazetted.
The fundamental rights petition filed by the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) seeking to hold the Local Authorities Elections forthwith or within a timeframe provided by the Court was taken up before a bench comprising Justices Priyasath Dep, Upaly Abeyrathne and Nalin Perera. The Court fixed the matter to be mentioned on 13 March.
Asthika Devendra with Danuka Nandasiri instructed by Mangala Balasuriya appeared for the petitioner. Riad Ameen appeared for the members of the Delimitation Committee. The petitioner cited Minister Musthapha, the Secretary of the Ministry, the Elections Commission, members of the Delimitation Committee and the Attorney General as respondents.
The petitioner stated that the Minister or the other respondents had continuously postponed or delayed the local government elections which were to be held in 2015 and 2016.
The petitioner further asserts that the Elections Commission has failed to hold the elections when the local authorities election has specifically provided that the general election to select representatives of the people for the local government institution should be held within a period of four months preceding the date on which the terms of office of members who are to be elected is due to commence.
One or more of the respondents denying the rights of citizen to select their representatives to perform legislative and executive power at a local levels is a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizen arbitrarily and illegally, the petition lists.
In the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, local governance was specifically recognised and after the said amendment, the legislative and executive power of the people have been devolved from the Central Government to Provincial Councils and to local government institutions, the petitioner points out.
The petitioner also states that local government institutions represent the sovereign power of the people and are part and parcel of the same, adding that at this instance the exercise of all the rights, privileges, powers, duties and functions vested in on all local authorities are exercised by the government officers who are neither representatives nor elected by people to exercise the sovereign power of the people.