LG polls may be delayed: poll monitors alarmed
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Yesterday (16), the head of the Election Commission (EC), Nimal G. Punchihewa, said the Provincial Council polls could not be postponed by Cabinet intervention. Lawyer Punchihewa stressed that there was no provision allowing Cabinet to ask the EC to postpone PC polls although local government polls can be postponed.
LG bodies include city councils, city councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas.
The President of the EC said it when The island asked for his response to the provincial councils and to the recent statement by Minister of Local Governments Roshan Ranasinghe that he had submitted a Cabinet document calling for the one-year postponement of the provincial council elections.
A December 15 statement issued by the Minister of State’s office quoted him as saying during a workshop for members of local government at Laya Leisure in Kukukeganga on December 9 that the EC would soon be informed of Cabinet decision. Lawyer Punchihewa said that a real mistake may have been made by the minister of state or the ministry when issuing a statement regarding the event that took place in Kukuleganga.
The EC is composed of Nimal G. Punchihewa, SB Divaratne, MM Mohamad, KPP Pathirana and Ms. PSM Charles.
When the EC’s response was brought to the attention of the Minister of State’s office, a spokesperson said that with the Minister being overseas he could not be contacted immediately, but clarification would be provided shortly. . The Department of State had not responded to The Island’s question at the time of going to press.
Responding to another question, Punchihewa said the minister of state may have been referring to a government decision to postpone the next local government polls. Asked to explain himself, the president of the EC declared: “The EC conducted the last LG ballot on February 10, 2018. The LG bodies were formed on March 20, 2018. Therefore, the next round of elections should be held. take place before March 20. 2022. “
Punchihewa recently told the Select Parliamentary Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms that the EC was preparing to hold LG elections scheduled for late March 2022. Punchihewa said the EC needed at least four months to prepare for LG elections.
The EC chief said he had not yet been informed of a decision to postpone LG’s polls.
Chief Government Whip’s Office spokesperson Dinesh Gunuwardena cited Punchihewa as telling the PSC that if the LG poll was to be conducted in late March under the existing system, the date had to be announced in January 2022.
The PSC is composed of Dinesh Gunawardena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Prof. GL Peiris, Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Douglas Devananda, Wimal Weerawansa, Basil Rajapaksa, Ali Sabry, PC, Jeewan Thondaman, Rauff Hakeem, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Kabir Hashima, Ranjith, Mano Ganesan, MA Sumanthiran, Madura Kariyawas and Sagara.
The PSC led by Minister Gunawardena is due to meet on December 20. The spokesperson said that despite the prorogation of Parliament, the PSC on electoral reforms would continue.
Leading poll watchdog group PAFFREL said it was quite shocked by LG’s decision to postpone polls. Acknowledging that Minister of State Ranasinghe inadvertently characterized the planned parliamentary elections as the election of the PC,
PAFFREL spokesperson Rohana Hettiarachchi questioned the rationale for postponing LG polls. Hettiarachchi, who also represents the March 12 Movement, said postponing the elections under any circumstances undermines democracy. The official said a statement will be released shortly on the matter under consideration.
The Yahapalana government delayed LG’s polls, then scuttled the CP’s poll law. Currently, there is no law available to organize the elections.
The original law enacted under the 1987 Indo-Lankan Accord was formulated in 1988, but due to the problems that arose, the last government proposed changes. These changes were included in a new CP Elections Bill 17 of 2017, but lawmakers on both sides disagreed with the provisions.