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Sri Lanka: Election Commission will go to Supreme Court if government agencies do not cooperate

The Election Commission (EC) will go to the Supreme Court if the Treasury and other government agencies do not cooperate with the Commission’s efforts to hold the local council elections as scheduled, its Chairman Nimal Punchihewa has told the Sunday Times.

Mr. Punchihewa has noted that the EC had requested the Treasury to release Rs. 800 million for election expenses up until the end of February. The Commission has told the Treasury that the funds could be released in instalments. While the Treasury had released some funds, but not all the funds they had requested for the March 9 poll had been released.

The EC had also requested the Power and Energy Ministry to increase the fuel quota for candidates and election officers but this request, too, has not been heeded so far.

If it becomes clear to the EC that government agencies, including the Treasury, are not cooperating with the Commission as required by the Constitution, then the EC will have to seek legal redress in the Supreme Court, the EC Chairman warned.

A writ petition filed in the Supreme Court by a retired army colonel asking for an order to stay the election in view of the prevailing economic crisis is to be taken up again on February 23.

Mr Punchihewa has said the EC was working to hold the election as planned on March 9 but was “ready for any eventuality.”

Postal voting for the local polls is scheduled to take place on February 22, 23 and 24. Postal voters who are unable to cast their ballots during these three days can do so on February 28 at the office of their respective District Returning Officer.

A total of 676,873 postal vote applications had been received for the March 9 elections.

The EC will hand over the postal ballot papers to District Returning Officers on February 15, Elections Commissioner General Saman Sri Ratnayake said. The Returning officers would then seal and secure the ballot papers and send them to post offices so that they could be forwarded to polling stations, he has said.

All facilities and funds have been received to hold the postal vote, Mr Ratnayake said.

Meanwhile, political party secretaries have been invited for a discussion on Tuesday.

With inputs from the Sunday Times.

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