Co-author dies as Sri Lanka parliament shoots down report

ECONOMYNEXT –   A  member of the controversial de-limitation committee died of a heart attack in Jaffna Saturday hours after a report he co-authored was shot down by parliament in an unprecedented move.

Professor Shahul H. Hasbullah, 67,  was a member of the committee which drew up new electoral boundaries for the next provincial council election. The panel had presented a 804-page report to the House five months ago and it was debated and rejected on Friday.

While in Jaffna to attend a function at the university there, Hasbullah,  a professor of geography at the University of Peradeniya, took ill and died early Saturday, a family friend said. His funeral was due to take place at his village of Erukkulampiddy in the district of  Mannar on Saturday afternoon.

Hasbullah was appointed to the five-member delimitation committee in October 2017 by President Maithripala Sirisena. Other members of the de-limitation committee are Dr. K. Thavalingam (Chairman), Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, P. M. Siriwardhane and S.Vijesandiran.

The committee report came in for scathing attack by both government and opposition members of parliament who voted 139 to nil to reject it.

Provincial Councils and Local Government minister Faiszer Musthapha whose presented the thick volume to parliament voted against it in a move unseen in recent parliamentary history.

Hasbullah specialised in population geography and internally displaced persons, having been made a refugee when Tamil Tigers drove out Muslims from Jaffna in 1990.

He graduated from the Peradeniya University and obtained his doctorate from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Parliamentary observers said the Sri Lankan government may have set a record in the history of Westminster parliamentary system by voting to defeat a report it had commissioned and introduced in the House.

The report was required to be approved by a majority of two-thirds voting in its favour, in terms of the Provincial Councils Elections Act. It was originally presented to parliament on March 6  by Musthapha.





Even the JVP which supported the report and called for early elections absented themselves at the time of voting. It was clear that no political party was in favour of holding early local elections despite their rhetoric to the contrary.

The defeat of the report means there will have to be a fresh de-limitation effort which will require several months thus delaying provincial council elections.

Many observers asked why the legislature spent time and money to debate a report that they were unanimously going to reject. (COLOMBO, August 25, 2018)

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