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Sri Lanka: 82,000 candidates vie for seats in 340 LG councils

About 82,000 candidates from more than 30 political parties and independent groups will be in the fray for 8,771 seats in 340 local councils at elections still scheduled for March 9.

The Election Commission has notified Assistant Elections Commissioners to hand over the information regarding these 82,000 candidates, their party names and symbols accurately in all three languages today by 2 pm.

The notification has been signed by the Elections Commissioner General Saman Shri Ratnayake who said that the details would be sent for printing in a Gazette tomorrow.

Polling cards will be issued on February 25 and 26.

Meanwhile, the decision by the Election Commission Chairman to grant approval for preparations of the elections ‘subject to approval’ has drawn criticism with questions raised if such approval could be granted.

In a separate development, two EC members have received fresh death threats as final preparations were underway to issue the gazette notification officially announcing the date of the elections.

EC member M.M. Mohammed received a phone call on Frdiay night threatening him to quit his position, while member S.B. Divaratne, also received a Whatsapp message demanding that he quit his post, Police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said. He said police protection had been provided while the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was conducting inquiries.

This was the second time Mr. Divaratne had received phone threats calling for his resignation. Earlier another member, retired former Deputy Inspector General of Police K.P.P. Pathirana, received a similar threat.

EC Chairman Nimal G. Punchihewa told the Sunday Times the Police had been requested to carry out a full inquiry into the threats and they were going ahead with election preparations.

Mr Punchihewa last evening sent a letter to President Ranil Wickremesinghe calling on him to ensure that a conducive climate was created for the conduct of the elections. He cited the death threats as an obstacle to the conduct of free and fair elections.

Commission member P.S.M. Charles has sent in her resignation to the President, but it was not clear if it has been accepted.

Former EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said that under the provisions if there was a difficulty in carrying out the functions of the Commission, the powers could be handed over to the Commissioner General.

ST./By Damith Weerasekera and Yoshita Perera

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