Story Behind President’s Move to Remove Four Governors

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Political affairs in Sri Lanka has further intensified as President Ranil Wickremesinghe is reported to have requested Governors of the North-Western, Eastern, Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces to resign from their office. They are Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Anuradha Yahampath, Tikiri Kobbekaduwa and A. J. M. Muzammil respectively. According to the reports, they would be replaced by senior members of the United National Party (UNP), of which Wickremesinghe is the Leader.

The general practice of Presidents appointing and replacing Provincial Governors without rhyme or reason is common and, as a result, often taken for granted. However, the case is different this time because the Provincial Councils (PCs) and Local Government (LG) institutions do not have elected representatives and thus, the Governors’ function is much more significant.

Despite the President’s office has informed the four governors to resign, they have not complied with the request. The governors raise concerns as they cannot fathom the reason behind the mover. Nevertheless, they are aware of the fact that they are not the most suitable ones to be in those positions as they were not appointed by President Wickremesinghe. It is obvious that governors are the most faithful individuals of the President.

In this context, Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva has stated that the President does not have the authority to remove Governors and that if he does, a resolution passed by two-thirds of the Provincial Council is required.

“The 13th constitutional amendment established provincial councils. Provincial Council elections have been held in Sri Lanka since then. According to the law, provincial council elections were scheduled to be held in October 2017.  However, the United National Party, which was in power at the time, presented a two-page bill to Parliament requesting that women’s representation be raised. Despite the fact that it was passed in the second reading, an amendment was introduced to add 20 extra pages to the bill, which included the provincial council election. In addition, in October 2017, I filed a complaint against it. Mr. Sumanthiran went to court against me that day. In any case, my request was denied,” Silva highlighted.

“However, there are currently no provincial councils. There are no chief ministers in the country. There are no members of the provincial council. Only governors exist. Governors are appointed by the President, according to Article 154/B. The constitution has confirmed this position. Governors have a 5-year tenure, according to Article 154/B/5. It is underlined in that part that “the post should be held for a period of 5 years from the date of assumption of the post.” In any situation, two-thirds of the provincial council can vote a resolution advising the president to dismiss the governor. Even if it is granted, the governor can only be removed if the president agrees. As such, the position of governor has been secured by the constitution,” he added.

These governors were appointed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He was elected by the people. The current president is the president’s successor. Thus, the question of whether a successor president can dismiss governors selected by the popularly elected president arises.

Due to the agreements between the current president and the former president as well as the main political party in the government, it was seen that the governors who worked under Gotabaya also agreed to continue in their positions under Ranil Wickramasinghe. However, the problem was that some of these governors are blamed of not implementing the policies of the new president. Among them, it seems that Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampatha was at the forefront. Yahampath is a member of the ‘Viyatmaga’ organization that worked to bring Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to power.

A major accusation leveled at Governor Yahampath recently is that she is trying to “necessarily involve China as a mediator in the Eastern Province”. She was publicly working to develop the eastern province as a sister province with China’s Yunnan province by bringing a group of Chinese representatives.

The governor told media that with the help of China, an agricultural technology laboratory, 10 seven-star hotel complexes and an annual scholarship program to get free education from universities in Yunnan Province, China will be started.

In addition, she has personally negotiated with the governor of Yunnan province over the phone to get 10 seven-star hotel complexes centered on the three districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara, and 25,000 scholarships annually for the Dua children of the province to get free education from the universities of Yunnan Province, China.

Taking all these fact into consideration, it is evident that the story behind the move to remove governors was not owing to the problem of all the governors, but because of the issue with governor of the Eastern Province. However, the existing problem is that the President, who enjoys all the executive powers in the Constitution to the fullest extent, does not seem to have a direct way to get out of the crisis under the Constitution regarding the Governors.

Source: dailymirror