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LG polls, Sri Lanka: Election date postponed; SC orders Sec, Finance to release money; OPP wants earlier date; EC says 25 April

Decision on new dates for 2023 LG polls postponed

A new date for the 2023 Local Government (LG) election will be announced at the beginning of next week, Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Attorney-at-Law Nimal G Punchihewa stated.

Although initially scheduled to be announced today (03 March), announcing the new election dates was postponed following a meeting held by the members of the Commission this morning.

On 24 February, the election body announced that the LG polls would not be held on 09 March as scheduled, owing to matters beyond its control.

On several occasions, the Election Commission held subsequent meetings to review the country’s economic situation and several other factors in order to decide on the new dates for the LG polls.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued a court order a short while ago barring the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance from withholding funds allocated for the LG polls through  the 2023 Budget.

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SC issues order on Finance Secretary against withholding budget allocations for elections

The Supreme Court has issued an interim order on the Secretary to the Finance Ministry, preventing him from withholding the funds allocated through the 2023 Budget for election purposes.

Supreme Court three-member bench comprising Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Janak de Silva and Priyantha Fernando gave this order while giving permission to take up a fundamental rights (FR) petition filed by the general secretary of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Ranjith Madduma Bandara for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has postponed the announcement of the new dates for the 2023 Local Government election.

Accordingly, a new date for the election will be made public before March 09, the Election Commission chairman, Attorney-at-Law Nimal G Punchihewa said, following a meeting convened earlier today.

On 24 February, the election body announced that the LG polls would not be held on 09 March as scheduled, owing to matters beyond its control.

On several occasions, the Election Commission held subsequent meetings to review the country’s economic situation and several other factors in order to decide on the new dates for the LG polls.

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LG polls: 25 April informed as new election date

The National Election Commission of Sri Lanka has informed District Returning Officers that 25th April will be the new date for Local Government elections. Writing to the relevant District Returning Officers, Commissioner General of elections Saman Sri Ratnayake said the Local Government elections will not be conducted on 9th March as previously announced through an extraordinary gazette on 30th January due to the unexpected and unavoidable issues faced in the printing of the ballot papers and other support required. He said the members of the Commission have therefore decided 25th April will be the next most suitable date to hold the elections.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission had summoned before it several state officials yesterday, including the Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana, IGP C.D. Wickramaratne and Government Printer Gangani Liyanage. Speaking to the media following the meeting, Liyanage said the requirements of the Government press including the time needed to complete the printing process, the funds and police security needed was informed to the Commission. She said the police assured her they would provide the necessary police personnel required to provide security to the ballot paper printing process.

The opposition parties also met with the Commission yesterday. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya, National People’s Power Party, Tamil National Alliance, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, All Ceylon Makkal Congress, Freedom People’s Congress and the Tamil Progressive Alliance had requested a meeting to express their concerns about the Local Government polls. MP Prof G.L. Peiris said the Treasury Secretary was a no-show at the meeting and if he continuously fails to provide the funds, they will be forced to seek redress from the Courts once again to force him into releasing the necessary funds for the elections. Samagi Jana Balawegaya General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said they will be forced to file a contempt of court case against Siriwardana if he does not provide the funds as stipulated by the recent court order.

FT

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