Having attended many meetings over the last year at Divisional Secretariats, I have realized that that is the best unit for ensuring knowledge of the day to day problems people face, and putting measures in place to address them. While Grama Niladhari Divisions allow for better local knowledge, these are too small for effective interventions, even with regard to local difficulties such as bad roads, deficiencies in utilities, inadequate health services, insufficient resources for education and training.
The Divisional Secretariat can coordinate matters in such areas, whilst also ensuring technical expertise at appropriate levels to plan and implement development projects. It is vital however that consultative mechanisms be introduced to ensure that local concerns are brought to the attention of decision makers, with opportunities to make suggestions and question decisions.
In the meetings I attend, we have suggested two such meetings a week, one to look at development issues, the other to deal with protection, and support for the vulnerable, including in particular women and children. These meetings should be open to all stakeholders, and should include government representation, including the liaison officers for each GN area appointed by the Divisional Secretary and the Police.
The Divisional Secretary should also have weekly meetings of such officials, to plan appropriate interventions. Protection issues can be discussed through the Women and Children’s Unit that the Secretary to that Ministry has requested be set up in every Divisional Secretariat, though this should include officials concerned with Social Services and Counselling too.
I would therefore suggest the following objectives to be fulfilled through the system given below –
- To promote the principal of subsidiarity in government by ensuring that decisions are made by units that can monitor and ensure implementation of programmes effectively
- To provide for active local government with accountability to the people on key issues affecting their day to day lives
- To ensure consultation of local communities with regard to relevant issues
- To provide for technical expertise and competence in local administration
All Divisions shall have a Divisional Council, save for those areas which have a Municipal or Urban Council. All such Councils shall be elected on the same mixed system as is used for Parliament. Councillors elected on the party list shall be required to have prescribed educational or professional qualifications. The Councilors shall elect from amongst their members elected on the Ward List a Chairman or a Mayor who shall be the Executive Head of the area covered by the Council.
The Council shall be responsible for following areas
- Transport Services
- Primary Health Care, Maternity Services and Sanitation
- Market Fairs
- Cultural and Sports Activities, including Museums, Libraries and Cultural Centres
- Waste Management
- Burials and burial grounds, cremations and cremation grounds, other than those declared by or under law made by Parliament to be national memorial cemeteries
and for the approval and monitoring of funds deployed in the Council Area, and for regulations to raise funds as laid out in the Constitution. Statutory provision should be made for consultation with community groups in the preparation of the budget, and for accountability mechanisms to ensure transparency.
The Chairman may be assisted by Coordinating Officers appointed by him, subject to approval by the Council, for the following areas
- Health and Education
- Utilities and Public Works
Who will liaise with public officials and ensure fulfillment of the policies approved by the Council. Grama Niladharis shall be responsible for convening regular consultative meetings with community groups in areas specified by the Council, and shall report on issues raised.