The ‘governing’ Governors | Daily News

The ‘governing’ Governors

The conduct of the newly appointed Governors for some of the provinces has raised concerns among the ranks of the UNP and not without reason, one could argue. UNP backbencher Heshan Vithana on Saturday, in Parliament, complained that some of the Governors have become a law unto themselves and arrogated for themselves powers that they did not posses and bossing their way around issuing instructions to the District Secretaries and other officials of the central Government which they have no right to do. Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena concurring said certain Governors were going beyond their remit and conducting themselves in an unacceptable manner. He referred to the relevant section of the Constitution under the 13th Amendment, whereby, the duties and functions of a Governor was specified and that at present some of the Governors were operating outside these confines. Moreover, he said, the role of a Governor was strictly ceremonial and what they were witnessing today with certain Governors was a clear departure from this ceremonial role.

What the minister left unsaid was the fact that all the new faces who crept into the scene as Governors were known anti-Government personages who had an axe to grind with UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. One of them is an individual who was on the UNF National List at the last General Election who had high hopes of entering Parliament, only to see his hopes shattered at the last minute. This individual, since then, has been a vociferous critic of Wickremesinghe and is known to be hired by a private television channel to attack the latter frequently. Yet another Governor who headed a NGO funded election monitoring body, too, was a harsh critic of the Prime Minister and went on air on the same TV channel to attack the Government and Wickremesinghe during the broadcast of the local government election results in February last year. Another individual who was made Governor recently is a sworn enemy of Wickremesinghe, though a former Provincial Councillor from the UNP for the Southern Province, in whose vehicle a haul of arms was discovered at the time the No Confidence Motion against Wickremesinghe was being debated, last April. He has now broken away from the UNP to form a rival alternative party ala the vikalpa eksath Jathika pakshaya formed by others of his ilk in the past. This personage was also thick in the clashes that occurred in Matara sometime ago, leading a rival group that tried to attack a demonstration expressing solidarity with Premier Wickremesinghe.

All these new Governors have one thing in common- their almost pathological hatred of Wickremesinghe which was given full play to during the 51 day illegal Government.

Governors, as the term implies, are supposed to be politically independent and they cannot bring their personal or political prejudices to bear on when executing their duties and functions which, in any event, are of a ceremonial nature. But far from this, these new Governors have taken upon themselves executive functions and are issuing orders to officials which are outside their jurisdiction. The Governor of the Western Province has striven to even to take over the functions of the Colombo Municipal Council by issuing a ban on payment hawkers in the Fort and the Pettah. Commendable though the move is, it was left to the Municipal Commissioner to point out to the Governor that action in this regard is the job of the CMC and no other body. The Governor of the Central Province, has, meanwhile, countermanded a move by the Maskeliya Pradeshiya Sabha to rename the entrance road to Sripada, on the basis that this would lead to communal strife. It appears that the Governor has encroached on the duties of the Provincial Commissioner by issuing instructions to a Local Government body. What is more, the Governor of the Northern Province was a member of an independent delegation to the current Geneva sessions, an event that has no relevance to the functions and duties of a Governor.

It is all too apparent that the new Governors have been handpicked to throw a spanner in the work of the Government and be hostile to it. There is no other reason that can be adduced to their present conduct. True, appointments made to the post of Governor are not without political bias. There was a former Governor of the North who was frequently seen on the political stages of the Rajapaksas and even addressed meetings. There was also a Governor of the Western Province, now long departed, who was often seen at the Lipton Circus or opposite the Fort Railway station participating in trade union demonstrations of anti-UNP hues (this Governor was a trade union leader, himself, in his hay-day). Such conduct, needless to say, does not befit the holder of an exalted office as Governor which is normally associated with sober demeanour, and even handed action. Ditto for crass political and personal prejudice witnessed in some of the recently appointed new Governors.

It will be interesting to see what other actions of a political nature these new incumbents would resort to as the countdown begins for the elections. 


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