Hakeem in row over provincial demarcations
Smaller political parties are keeping a close watch on how an official Committee would demarcate electoral boundaries, now a pre-requisite for future Provincial Council elections.
That was perhaps the reason why the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem came out with a proposal at last Tuesday’s weekly ministerial meeting. He wanted a three-member committee to monitor the demarcation.
They were discussing the appointment of a five-member Delimitation Committee in accordance with the recently passed controversial Provincial Councils Elections (Amendment) Act.
The names of five members were approved and gazetted last Wednesday. They are K. Thavalingam, Prof. S.H. Hisbullah, Dr Amita Dias Bandaranaike, P.M. Siriwardena and Sangaran Vijayasunthiran.
Minister Hakeem sought the appointment of a three-member Committee comprising a representative each from the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities to monitor the work of the Delimitation Committee. He even had the name of a Muslim representative he wished to be included.
The move was to draw and angry response from his political rival Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen. The latter charged that his ministerial colleague was always trying to obstruct business with diversions like this. A heated exchange ensued. Joining in the argument and backing up the position taken by Bathiudeen was Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha.
When the arguments heated up, Musthapha urged President Sirisena’s intervention. The President said that the matter should be resolved amicably through discussion.
Mr. Hakeem said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe could then appoint the three member Committee. It drew in a comment from Minister Kabir Hashim. He declared that as General Secretary of the UNP, he would be able to nominate the UNP representative to such a Committee.
The matter ended inconclusively.