COLOMBO (News 1st); Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament on Thursday (23) that the country’s National Election Commission has not legally called for an election, and there are no funds to conduct an election.
Commenting on the debate requested by the opposition on postponing the election, the President said there is no election for one to be postponed.
“The Election Commission had gone to court and said that it cannot conduct an election. However, an affidavit was provided. It states that the Commission has been informed by the Secretary of the Treasury that he is unable to provide the necessary funds to conduct the election. That is false. On the 14th of December I informed the members of the Election Commission of the country’s economic situation, the fact that we do not have the necessary funds to conduct the election, and the fact that it would have a negative impact on the economy, and to conduct the election after the number of members is cut down to 5,000. I felt it was my duty to inform them because it is a caretaker commission, and not a normal commission. It is a temporary commission,” elaborated the President.
“On the 5th of January, I along with the Prime Minister and the Attorney General met with them (Election Commission). We did not meet to delay the election. The commission was divided. We decided to have an election on the 23rd of December, but two of them said they did not decide on the date to call for nominations. One person said that it was decided. One person spoke for both sides. The fifth member was in Kandy at the time. The Attorney General called for the notes and minutes of the meeting. They then said there were no reports. How can this be accepted?,” President Wickremesinghe further told the Parliament.
President Wickremesinghe commenting on the counsel retained by the Election Commission said “When Saliya Pieris was retained, some government MPs asked me how is it that Saliya Pieris can be retained? They said he is a lawyer involved in politics, and they (Election Commission) must retain a lawyer who is not in politics, or obtain the services of the Attorney General.”
The President said it is his view that if counsel should be retained, the counsel should be one not involved with any political party.
The President also went on to note that the estimate of Rs. 10 Billion was made for the election, when the appropriation bill was being prepared, however, an official from the National Election Commission had noted that Rs. 5 Billion would be sufficient to carryout tasks that would cost Rs. 10 Billion.
The President said the proposed Parliament Select Committee must be appointed to inquire into the Election Commission and the Local Government Election.
Thereafter, Opposition MPs protested inside the Parliament, demanding an election.
In the midst of the protest, the President left the Parliament Chamber.
23-2-2023 News First