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LG Polls in Sri Lanka: CMEV urges EC to take action against Govt Printer; Opposition threatens to take fight for polls to the streets

EC says Postal Vote will go ahead as planned

COLOMBO (News 1st); Postal Voting for the upcoming Local Government Election will go ahead as planned on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of February 2023, confirmed the Chairman of the National Election Commission Attorney Nimal Punchihewa on Wednesday (15).

He said that the distribution of the ballot papers for Postal Voting was delayed, though the distribution process was scheduled to commence on Tuesday (14).

However, the Government Printer said that an issue arose regarding the provision of the ballot papers for the Postal Vote due to funding issues.

In the meantime, the National Election Commission and the Government Printer had engaged in a series of talks and based on those discussions the Government Printers is expected to deliver the ballot papers for postal voting in the coming days.

News First 

Meanwhile President of the Sri Lanka Bar association says:

CMEV urges EC to take action against Govt. printer

CMEV expresses its deep concern about the indefinite postponement of the postal voting for the Local Government Election 2023. It has been reported that this is due to the Government Printer’s refusal to submit the printed postal voting ballot papers on time to the Election Commission.

CMEV learnt that the Government Printer sent a letter to the Election Commission yesterday, February 13, 2023, informing it that it is unable to process the printing of ballot papers until the full cost for the printing is made by the Commission. This was in line with the President’s recent direction on January 31, 2023, to heads of government authorities to not purchase services on a credit basis.

CMEV believes that the disruption of the postal voting could impact holding the Local Government Election 2023 as scheduled on March 9, 2023. The Government’s actions have created immense uncertainty for voters regarding the Local Government Election, and this is a direct violation of the right to vote that is guaranteed for all citizens under the Constitution of Sri Lanka. CMEV highlights it is the responsibility of the Executive to create an enabling environment for conducting the Local Government Elections, as per the Constitution.

The conduct of the Government Printer is specifically a violation of Article 104B(2) of the Constitution which states that it is the duty of all authorities of the State to co-operate with the Election Commission to enforce all laws relating to holding elections. Refusal or failure to carry out this duty is a criminal offence under Article 104GG of the Constitution. CMEV specifically urges the Election Commission to exercise its powers under this Article to take action against the Government Printer and any other public authority disrupting the election process.

Opposition parties threaten to take fight for polls to the streets 

  • SJB, NPP and a host of other Opposition parties say they will now take the matter before the court of the people 
  • Says they will resolve the matter of polls on the streets and force the Govt. to hold the Local Government election
  • Opposition also threatens to take legal action and calls on the EC to summon Govt. Printer and Treasury Secretary over the ballot paper fiasco

Opposition political parties are now up in arms after the announcement of the indefinite postponement of the postal vote due to the lack of funds for ballot printing purposes.

The main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya says it will take to the streets if the Local Government elections are delayed. Holding a press conference yesterday at the opposition leader’s office, SJB MP Nalin Bandara said the party will ensure the issue relating to the polls is resolved on the streets of the country if the election is postponed.

He said the Government has attempted many tactics to avoid an election but the SJB will not back down.

“This is a violation of a human right and we are prepared to seek legal redress once more. If state sector employees act against court orders at the will of the Government we will take strict action against them,” he said.

“We are also ready to resolve this on the streets. The SJB commenced the struggle on the street against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. We showed the people he is nothing but a puppet and took away any fear the people had. Eventually, he was ousted.” he noted.

He said President Ranil Wickremesinghe will also have to go the same way as Rajapaksa. He also accused Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) politician Basil Rajapaksa of being behind the plot to delay polls.

Speaking to the media outside the Election Commission yesterday, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said last week the EC assured the courts it will take the necessary steps to hold elections as scheduled.

“But today the EC is not even being supported by the Attorney General. The country in the current situation is deviating from the law. We ask the Attorney General to support the EC. If not we will go to court once again. We will also present these facts before the court of the people. We will do everything necessary to protect the rights of the people,” he assured.

Meanwhile, National People’s Power (NPP) party politburo member Counsel Sunil Watagala said the party requested the EC to summon the Government Printer and the Treasury Secretary before it. “These state sector officials must be brought before the EC and legal action must be taken to hold this democratic election immediately. If not, the NPP will take this fight to the streets to force the Government to hold an election,” he warned.

Also speaking to the media, Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) member Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said the issue relating to the printing of ballot papers is clearly a result of pressure exerted by the Government.

“At no time in history has the Government Printer been paid prior to the printing of ballot papers. The expense was always reimbursed after the printing was done,” he said. Holding a press conference, fellow FPC member Dr. Charitha Herath said there is no Government in a situation where the franchise of the people cannot be protected. He said the Treasury Secretary must release the necessary funds immediately.

Leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance Mano Ganesan says instead of an election campaign, the parties and the people have now been forced to launch a campaign calling for elections instead. “We have been left with no choice. We will take this before the court of the people. Let us prepare for a struggle on the streets,” he said.

FT

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