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Politics of Sri Lanka

Template:Politics of Sri Lanka Politics of Sri Lanka takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Sri Lanka is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. Since decennia the party system is dominated by the socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the conservative United National Party. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Politics of Sri Lanka reflect the historical and political differences between the two main ethnic groups, the majority Sinhala and the minority Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island.

Constitutional development

At independence in 1948, Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, was a Commonwealth realm, with the monarch represented by the Governor General. The Parliament was bicameral, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. In 1971, the Senate was abolished, and the following year, Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka, and became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the last Governor General becoming the first President of Sri Lanka. Under the first republican Constitution, the unicameral legislature was known as the National State Assembly.

In 1978, a new Constitution was adopted, which provided for an executive President, and the legislature was renamed Parliament.

Political conditions

Sri Lanka's two major political parties -- the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party -- embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. Generally, the SLFP envisions a broader role for the state, and the UNP a broader role for capitalism.

Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys surprising stability given the high levels of political violence, especially that which occurred under the UNP regime of 1977-1993. Recent elections have seen decreasing election violence between the SLFP and the UNP, compared to the period 1977-1994. Elections have been cleaner, without the rampant impersonation and vote-rigging which characterised the 1982 Presidential Election, the notorious Referendum of the same year, the Presidential Election of 1988 and the General Election of 1989.

The president (Mrs C.B.Kumaratunaga SLFP) dissolved the parliament in February 2004 after a two year term (though the parliament was elected for a 6 year term.) The election was held on 2 April 2004. The SLFP in alliance with the JVP secured the most seats by a single party but failed to achieve a majority. One of the ironies of the alliance was that the Presidents husband had in fact been assaninated by a member of the JVP. As a result of the alliance they lost the very first vote in parliament; that of appointment of the speaker. As a result the parliament did not pass a single bill from February to May.

Executive branch

|President |Mahinda Rajapakse |SLFP |November 19 2005 |- |Prime minister |Ratnasiri Wickremanayake |SLFP |21 November 2005 |} The President, directly elected for a six-year term, is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The election occurs under the Sri Lankan form of the contingent vote. Responsible to Parliament for the exercise of duties under the constitution and laws, the president may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of Parliament with the concurrence of the Supreme Court.

The President appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers responsible to Parliament. The President's deputy is the prime minister, who leads the ruling party in Parliament. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the President.

Legislative branch

The Parliament has 225 members, elected for a six year term, 196 members elected in multi-seat constituencies and 29 by proportional representation. The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. The primary modification is that the party that receives the largest number of valid votes in each constituency gains a unique "bonus seat" (see Hickman, 1999). The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament any time after it has served for one year. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. Since its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Parliament was dissolved on February 7, 2004 by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Elections were held on April 04 and the new Parliament convened on April 23 and elected Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Mr Mahinda Rajapakse was elected to the post of President on November 17 2005. The cabinet appointed by him was comical, with over one hundred members of parliament receiving mininisterial portfolios. Many of the public were amused by the fact that ther were now four Ministers for Nation Building. In particular because the ministers themselves seemed puzzled by what this broad potfolio involved. Mr G.Rajapakse(The Presidents brother) was appointed Minister of Defense. The Labour Minister, Mr Mervin De Silva did not resign in 2007, despite rumours, following reports that he assaulted several journalists. He is also reputed to associate with drug dealers.

Political parties and elections

In August 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that Presidential Elections would be held in November 2005, resolving a long-running dispute on the length of President Kumaratunga's term. Mahinda Rajapaksa was nominated the SLFP candidate and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe UNP candidate. The Election was held on November 17, 2005, and Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected the fifth Executive President of Sri Lanka with a 50.29% of valid votes, compared to Ranil Wickremesinghe's 48.43%. Mahinda Rajapaksa took oath as President on November 19, 2005. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was appointed the 22nd Prime Minister on November 21, 2005, to fill the post vacated by Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was previously Prime Minister in 2000.

Administrative divisions

Local government is divided into two parallel structures, the civil service, which dates to colonial times, and the provincial councils, which were established in 1987.

Civil Service Structure

The country is divided into 25 districts, each of which has a district secretary (the GA, or Government Agent) who is appointed. Each district comprises 5-16 divisions, each with a DS, or divisional secretary, again, appointed. At a village level Grama Niladari (Village Officers), Samurdhi Niladari (Development Officers) and agriculture extension officers work for the DSs.

Provincial Council Structure

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's Chief Minister with a board of ministers; a provincial governor is appointed by the president.

The Provincial Councils have full statute making power with respect to the Provincial Council List, and shared statute making power respect to the Concurrent List. While all matters set out in the Reserved List are under the central government.

  • Provincial Council List - basically deals with:
  • Planning - Implementation of provincial economic plans.
  • Education and Educational Services
  • Local Government
  • Provincial Housing and Construction
  • Roads and bridges and ferries thereon within the Province
  • Social Services and Rehabilitation
  • Agriculture and Agrarian Services
  • Rural Development
  • Health
  • Indigenous Medicine - Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani
  • Food supply and distribution within the Province
  • Land
  • Irrigation
  • Animal husbandry
  • Provincial debt - The borrowing of money to the extent permitted by or under any law made by Parliament
  • Protection of environment
  • Reserved List
  • National Policy on all Subjects and Functions
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Posts and Telecommunications ; Broadcasting ; Television
  • Justice insofar as it relates to the judiciary and the courts structure
  • Finance in relation to national revenue, monetary policy and external resources ; customs
  • Foreign Trade ; Inter-Province Trade and Commerce
  • Ports and Harbours
  • Aviation and Airports
  • National Transport
  • Rivers and Waterways ; Shipping and Navigation ; Maritime zones
  • Minerals and Mines
  • Immigration and Emigration and Citizenship
  • Elections Including Presidential, Parliamentary, Provincial Councils and Local Authorities
  • Census and Statistics
  • Professional Occupations and Training
  • National Archives ; Archaeological Activities and Sites and Antiquities
  • All Subjects and Functions not Specified in List I or List III
  • Concurrent List - basically deals with:
  • Planning
  • Higher Education
  • National Housing and Construction.
  • Acquisition and requisitioning of Property.
  • Social Services and Rehabilitation
  • Agricultural and Agrarian Services
  • Health
  • Registration of births, marriages and deaths.
  • Renaming of Towns and Villages.
  • Private lotteries within the Province.
  • Festivals and Exhibitions.
  • Rationing of food and maintenance of food stocks.
  • Co-operatives, - Co-operative Banks.
  • Irrigation
  • Social Forestry and protection of wild animals and birds.
  • Fisheries. - Other than fishing beyond territorial waters.
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Employment
  • Tourism. - Development and control of the Tourist Industry in the Province.
  • Trade and commerce
  • Newspapers, books and periodicals and printing presses.
  • Offences against statutes with respect to any matters specified in this List.
  • Fees in respect of any of the matters in this List, excluding fees taken in any Court.
  • Charities and charitable institutions, charitable and religious endowments and religious institutions.
  • Price control.
  • Inquiries and statistics for the purpose of any of the matters in this List or in the Provincial Council List.
  • Adulteration of foodstuffs and other goods.
  • Drugs and Poisons.
  • Protection of the environment.
  • Archaeological sites and remains, other than those of national importance.
  • Prevention of infectious or contagious diseases or pests.
  • Pilgrimages.
    • These lists are neither complete or accurate, but are provided as guides to describe the extent to which the provincial councils power run.

Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited local government powers.

Local Government structure

Below the provincial level are elected Municipal Councils and Urban Councils, responsible for municialities and cities respectively, and below this level Pradeshiya Sabhas (village councils), again elected. There are: 18 Municipal Councils: Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Galle, Matara, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Moratuwa, Ratnapura, Kurunegala, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Batticaloa, Kalmune, Negombo. 42 Urban Councils: 270 Pradeshiya Sabhas: (The above statistics include the new local government authorities established by the government in January 2006.)

Judicial branch

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch, but laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal, known as respectively as Kandyan, Thesavalamai (Jaffna Tamil) and Muslim (Roman-Dutch law applies to Low-country Sinhalese, Estate Tamils and others).

Tamil conflict

Rajapaksa offers less autonomy than Wickremasinghe to the northeast, home to most of Sri Lanka's 3.2 million ethnic Tamils. His narrow victory was accused of being engineered by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who want Tamil Eelam to be an independent country. The LTTE boycotted the election, thereby preventing thousands of Tamils from voting, and so Wickremasinghe, whose election promises included a Federal state to the North and East, from taking power. .

Foreign relations of Sri Lanka

Tracey Sri Lanka generally follows a non-aligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 1977. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.

Sri Lanka is member of the IAEA, IBRD, AsDB, C, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-24, G-77, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OPCW, PCA, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO. І

Military of Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Military comprises Sri Lankan Army, Sri Lankan Navy and Sri Lankan Air Force. They are under the control of the Ministry of Defence, which is currently controlled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who also acts as Minster of Defence. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces are primarily focused on land warfare, with the Army being the oldest and largest of all the services. However, as the nation is surrounded by sea, the Navy is considered the most vital defence force. The Air Force is seen primarily as a support force for both land and naval services. Although the first commander of the army was a Tamil (a member of the ethnic minority), in recent decades the armed forces have been recruiting personnel almost exclusively from the sinhala community. This has led to a great deal of apprehension in the Tamil community. The military has taken part in many wars throughout its history including the Boer War and both World Wars (under the command of the British at the time). Since independence, however, its primary missions have been counter-insurgency, targeting armed groups within the country, most notably the LTTE and at one point the Sinhalese insurgent group the JVP. The Sri Lankan military has apparently received training assistance from other nations such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, United States, India, Pakistan and even South Africa. There have even been claims that soldiers from some of those countries have taken part in operations, but this has not been confirmed or proven. Recently, the Sri Lankan Army was chosen by the United Nations to take part in peacekeeping operations in Haiti. The Sri Lankan armed forces have been involved in fighting the LTTE(Liberation Tigers Of Tamil Ellam) since 1983. The total number of casualties as a result of fighting over a twenty five year period is unclear, and has been downplayed by both sides in the conflict (it probably runs into the tens of thousands). The Sri Lankan armed forces are believed to be involved in the torture, rape and extra judicial killings of numerous civilians. In spite of the efforts of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UNHCR the Sri Lankan government has refused to investigate any of these allegations. To date no member of the armed forces has been been charged with war crimes.

Political pressure groups

Other relevant groups are the Buddhist clergy; the Sri Lanka Trade Unions; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE (rebel group fighting for a separate state/control over Sri Lanka) and Sinhalese groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism as well as Sinhalese Buddhist and Sidney Saulter lay groups.

See also

References

  • Hickman, J. 1999. "Explaining the Two-Party System in Sri Lanka's National Assembly." Contemporary South Asia, Volume 8, Number 1 (March), pp. 29-40 (A detailed description of the effects of the bonus seat provision).
  • James Jupp, Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy, London: Frank Cass and Company, Limited, 1978.

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