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LG Polls, Sri Lanka: Opposition wants Parliament to take up the issue thru a special resolution; Speaker says “I can’t”;

Opposition Urges Parliament to Probe Election Commission’s Funding Plea

PARLIAMENT, Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte (News Cutter)–A Group of Opposition MPs led by Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa held a meeting with the Speaker of the House Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at the Parliament.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future steps to be taken regarding a letter sent by the Election Commission (EC) seeking intervention for funds.

During the meeting, the MPs urged the Speaker to summon the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to Parliament for an inquiry into the letter sent by the EC.

Furthermore, they also requested the Speaker to convene an immediate session of Parliament to discuss the matter.

News Cutter

Can’t intervene in releasing funds for election: Speaker

  • Says no legal provision for him to intervene per EC request
  • Wants party leaders and P’ment to decide LG Poll funds

Although the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana yesterday (27) pointed out that there are no legal provisions for him to intervene in releasing funds for the Local Government (LG) poll as requested by the Election Commission (EC) in writing last week, he however, stated that the matter should be decided by the party leaders.

When queried by The Daily Morning as to what steps he would take to release the funds to hold the LG poll as requested by the EC, Abeywardana said: “That has to be decided by the party leaders. There are no legal provisions for me to get involved, and give legal instructions on how they should disperse their money. The duty of Parliament has been done, and after that, the dispersing of the money is part of the Treasury’s job. They must do it, depending on the income that has been collected by them at that time. That is the position, and beyond that if anything has to happen, it has to be in accordance with the Parliamentarians. The authority is with the Parliament, not one or two MPs. Not even the Speaker has anything to do with that. The MPs have to decide.”

When queried as to when he would hold a party leaders meeting, he noted: “That depends on how the party leaders are available, so we will talk to them and see.”

Meanwhile, when queried by The Daily Morning from the Finance Ministry and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana yesterday as to whether he had received any request from Parliament or the Speaker to release funds for the LG poll, he said: “No. I have not got any such request from anyone.” When questioned as to whether there would be any funds released for the LG poll expenses, he said: “You have to ask that from the Minister of Finance (President Ranil Wickremesinghe is also the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies).”

Last week, the Chairman of the EC, Attorney Nimal G. Punchihewa wrote to the Speaker, requesting him to intervene to urge the Treasury to release the funds required to hold the LG election. The EC decided at a meeting held last week not to hold the LG poll on 9 March as scheduled due to the reasons that have arisen and which are beyond the control of the Commission. The EC further stated that a new date for the LG poll would be declared on 3 March.

Meanwhile, Abeywardana stated that around 1,500 applications have been received by the Constitutional Council to appoint members to the independent commissions.

TM

Parliament should allocate funds for LG polls through a special resolution

A group of Opposition members including Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Professor G. L. Peiris and Dilan Perera who had met the Speaker today had proposed that Parliament should immediately allocate funds for the local government elections through a special resolution.A statement from the Opposition Leader’s office said the MPs requested the Speaker to take this step in relation to the request made by Election Commission Chairman Nimal Punchihewa from the Speaker to intervene in ensuring that the local government election is held.

A request to this effect was made in writing by the polls chief recently.

The MPs have also requested that the House should be convened before March 8 on which it was to meet initially.

“The MPs requested that the legislature should make sure that people’s sovereignity is safeguarded. They have also informed him that all local bodies will soon be administered by representatives of the President and that apparently they will come under the President.

Speaker Abeywardena had said there should be a consensus between the ruling party and the opposition MPs for whatever steps which the House is to take with regard to the local polls. (Yohan Perera) DM

Opposition wants speaker to summon finance secretary

ECONOMYNEXT – A group of Sri Lanka’s opposition MPs led by opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has asked Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to summon the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to a party leader’s meeting on the local government elections.

The group of legislators which included former government MPs who now sit in the opposition as independents met the Speaker on Tuesday February 28 urging him to facilitate a discussion with the finance ministry secretary.

The MPs had also sought clarification on a letter addressed to the Speaker by Election Commission Chairman Nimal Punchihewa on Friday February 24 on securing funds for the local government polls that were originally scheduled for March 09 and has since been postponed.

A new date for the polls has yet to be announced, and opposition parties claim that the government is deliberately delaying the polls citing financial constraints because it fears a humiliating defeat. President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently told parliament that the election has, in fact, not been delayed as the election commission had yet to officially declare a date for its conduct.

Wickremesinghe said that there are no funds at present, but all stakeholders can discuss a possible solution.

“For now there is no money. But for now there is no election either. There is no money for an election, and even if there was, there is no election. So what do we do?” he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting with the Speaker, opposition leader Premadasa said the election commission is ready to hold the election with just the issue of funding to be sorted out. Not releasing the 10 billion rupees already allocated for the polls would denigrate the reputation of parliament, he told Speaker Abeywardena.

“The election commission is ready to conduct the polls. They only need a small amount of money. The initial amount needed is not 8 or 5 billion rupees but a very small amount,” said Premadasa.

Premadasa’s Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) colleagues and MPs Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Lakshman Kiriella and Tissa Attanayake were present at the meeting together with former ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) stalwarts and MPs Dullas Alahapperuma, Dilan Perera, Charitha Herath, G L Peiris, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and others who have since broken ranks were also present.

“You can summon the finance ministry secretary, and inform him that we wish to discuss with him and question him about the problem in issuing funds. Give us the opportunity to make our arguments based on that data. He too can give his reasons for not being able to do it,” said Premadasa.

“There is a serious problem here pertaining to the future of the country. All of us as well as the country is looking to you for your decision,” said MP Alahepperuma, who ran for president with Premadasa as his prime ministerial candidate at the 2022 parliamentary vote to replace ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who resigned after nationwide protests.

Speaker Abeywardena said there is no legal provisions for him to exercise the powers of parliament himself.

“This is why a meeting was called for 2pm tomorrow to inform parliament and talk to all MPs.,” he said.

“Use your powers to summon the secretary to the party leaders meeting tomorrow. You can also tell party leaders representing the government that he is coming so they can come ready with their questions,” said Premadasa.

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