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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Right to franchise in Sri Lanka : ‘IGP and Govt. Printer have broken the law’

  • EC to file motion with Supreme Court

The Election Commission (EC) is to file a motion with the Supreme Court to find judicial recourse to remove obstacles blocking the Local Government Polls from being held on time.

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the first election to be held after last year’s public protest and civil disobedience campaign – the Aragalaya – succeeded in forcing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to abandon his presidency, with several State institutions continuing to create bottlenecks, choking ballot progress.

The first election following the political instability is seen as a litmus test for the current administration.

When asked about what measures the Election Commission will take given the ongoing stalemate, Commissioner General of Elections Saman Sri Ratnayake said: “We expect that the Supreme Court will deal with the obstructions that have emerged to block the election from being held according to the schedule. We, as the Election Commission, have no reason to delay elections.”

He said the commission would file a motion regarding the obstructions and leave it to the court to decide on the next step.

“We gave an undertaking to the courts that we would conduct the Local Government Elections. Now we have filed a motion reporting to court on how we are being obstructed from carrying out our duty of holding polls.”

He charged that the Treasury’s claim of lack of funds was suspect as there had been a Cabinet circular revealing a surplus of Government revenue for February.

“A Cabinet circular was issued to the Ministry of Finance stating that there would be a marginal surplus in Government revenue at the end of February, so it is up to the Finance Minister to allocate some of that surplus for the Local Government Elections. That responsibility and power lies with the Minister of Finance, President Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

Ratnayake also said action would be taken against officials who had obstructed the election process.

“Both the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Government Printer have broken election law and the commission will decide on what action to take against those two officials.”

Meanwhile, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in a statement charged that there was a concerted attempt to delay the Local Government Polls.

“The Bar Association of Sri Lanka expresses its deep concern over recent attempts by State authorities to disrupt the Local Authorities Elections, which are mandated by law to be held prior to 19 March 2023. The BASL emphasises that all elections are a vital part of Sri Lanka’s democratic process and must not be hindered.

“The BASL notes several decisions by the Government in recent weeks, purportedly aimed at managing public funds, have had the effect of preventing the Election Commission from conducting the elections. These include a demand by the Government Printer for the release of funds prior to the printing of ballot papers and the Secretary to the Treasury claiming that there are no funds available for the elections. This is despite a budget allocation of Rs. 10 billion for the purpose of elections,” the statement read.

Further, the BASL said that any efforts to delay elections must be “defeated” and those responsible held accountable.

“It is the sacred duty of the Government to ensure that funds are provided for the conduct of the elections which are an essential function in the country. The BASL calls on the Government and all State officials to respect the Constitution and the law and ensure that the Local Authorities Elections are held as scheduled, without any further attempts to disrupt or interfere with the process.

“The BASL is of the view that all attempts to interfere with the electoral process must not only be defeated, but all those responsible for such interference must be dealt with in accordance with the law.

 By Skandha Gunasekara/TM


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