Devolution in the Northern Province

September 2013 – February 2015

by Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo, March 10, 2015

The first elections of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) held in September 2013 provided an important opportunity to test the utility of the Thirteenth Amendment in devolving power. Until then, the Northern Province was essentially under Central administration (through the Governor) for the larger part of its existence since the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment.
This policy brief studies the main experiences in the NPC since the September 2013 elections. It notes that those experiences were dominated by the former Governor, particularly in terms of his involvement in the day-to-day administration of the Council. In this regard, his role in the exercise of the provincial public service was worthy of particular attention. In many ways, his involvement resulted in a parallel administration, which sidelined the elected representatives of the Province. Aside from the Governor’s role, the central control over provincial finances, both directly and through the Governor, also receives attention in the brief. 
In the one and half years under review, the NPC did not attempt to exercise land powers, police powers or any of the powers on the Concurrent List. That the Council operating within the confines of seemingly uncontentious powers of the Thirteenth Amendment was obstructed in this manner does not bode well for the Thirteenth Amendment’s ability to deliver meaningful devolution of power. While the new regime in the Central Government, together with the newly appointed Governor and Chief Secretary in the Northern Province, might be able to reverse this trend, previous experience indicates the need for urgent reform.
Policy brief culminates in recommendations, arising from the analysis of identified problem areas. However, the present study carries on from previous initiatives of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) dealing with the Provincial Council system, and it is clear that the recommendations made there have only gained further relevance, over time.

Download a PDF of the new policy brief here or read it online here.

CPA Devolution in the Northern Province

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