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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Election Secretariat Lacks Teeth to Create Level Playing Field

The Election Secretariat yesterday admitted that the Parliamentary Elections Act lacked provisions to compel serving Chief Ministers as well as Provincial Council Ministers to resign before they submitted nominations for parliamentary polls.

Western Province CM Prasanna Ranatunga (UPFA), North Western Province CM Dayasiri Jayasekera (UPFA) and Uva CM Harin Fernando (UNP) are in the fray in Gampaha, Kurunegala and Badulla districts, respectively.

Nominations for the August 17 polls closed at noon on Monday (July 13).

Additional Commissioner of Elections R. M. A. L. Ratnayake said that there was no requirement in accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act for members of the Provincial Councils to resign.

When it was pointed out that some candidates exercising privileges weren’t fair by other contestants, Ratnayake said that the Election Secretariat would be soon requesting them to go on leave during the campaign.

Ratnayake asserted that the Election Secretariat couldn’t do anything except requesting the particular  Chief Ministers and provincial ministers to leave office temporarily.

Responding to another query, Ratnayake said that Cabinet Ministers (40), State Ministers (14) and Deputy Ministers (28) of the caretaker government could continue regardless of the dissolution of parliament.

According to Ratnayake, in accordance with the existing law, members of parliament had to resign to contest Provincial Councils.

Former JVP MP and Badulla District candidate Samantha Vidyaratne yesterday said that there was a definite need to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act. Obviously, Chief Ministers and provincial ministers as well as heads of local government authorities contesting the August 17 polls had an undue advantage, Vidyaratne said, adding that the Elections Secretariat shouldn’t be so naïve to believe a level playing field could be created by requesting Chief Ministers, provincial ministers and heads of local authorities to go on leave.

The JVP firebrand said that in accordance with President Maithripala Sirisena’s election manifesto, the parliamentary polls at the conclusion of the 100-day project was to be conducted by a genuine caretaker government. The former MP pointed out that both UNP and SLFP benefited from the current arrangements as both parties were represented in the coalition holding power.

Vidyaratne said that the civil society, the media and those genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the country should examine the perks and privileges enjoyed by Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers in spite of the parliament being dissolved. “Good governance is nothing but a joke in this country. They carry on regardless. For them dissolution of parliament hasn’t made any difference.”

– The Island


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