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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2346

Postponement of Provincial Council Elections Drawn Flak

Colombo, 28 July, (Asiantribune.com):

The move to delay holding the Provincial Councils' election by adopting a move to amend the provisions of the Constitution and Provincial Councils Act has drawn flak.

The decision was made, it was reported, at the Cabinet meeting held on 25 July, as a move, in order to enable the conduction of elections of all Provincial Councils on the same day.

During the briefing, Cabinet representatives explained that the existing method of conducting elections in different regions on different days had posed unfavorable results such as the wastage of monetary, human and other resources, disturbances in the provision of government services to the public, violence associated with election activities, electoral fraud, and increased misuse of state-owned property.

Accordingly, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had submitted the proposal to amend the Constitution and Provincial Councils Act, as a solution to overcome said issues.

However term of office of 9 provinces scheduled to expire in four stages - Sabaragamuwa, Eastern and North-Central in September/October, Central, Wayamba and Northern in October 2018, Central, Southern and Western in April 2019 and Uva in October 2019.

In the wake of the Cabinet approving the postponement of the provincial council elections, the joint opposition informed the Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya in writing that legal action would be taken if the elections were not conducted on time.

Former minister G.L. Peiris said he had retained Romesh de Silva PC to represent him in Court with regard to this matter and informed through his lawyers, that the three PCs would stand dissolved by September/October in terms of Article 154 E of the Constitution.

In the meantime, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said, “According to the provisions of the law the Provincial Council Election cannot be postponed,” Deshapriya said. “If it is needed to be postponed a motion should be passed with two third majority of all the members including those absent”.

“According to the provisions of the law the Provincial Council Election cannot be postponed,” Deshapriya said. “If it is needed to be postponed a motion should be passed with two third majority of all the members including those absent”.

He also pointed out that the Provincial Council Election could be called even today by dissolving the Provincial Councils. “If there is a view that all the provincial council elections are needed to be held together, it could be done by way of early dissolution of other Provincial Councils as well,” Election Commission Chairman Deshapriya said.

A number of local election watchdogs raised concerns over the Cabinet decision to introduce amendments to the Provincial Councils Election Act no. 2 of 1998 enabling elections to all PCs to be conducted on a single day citing the holding of PC polls on a scattered basis was a waste of state funds and the negative effect it had on democracy.

PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said if the government intended to conduct elections to all 9 provinces, the government must disclose the time frame it expects to hold polls to all provinces whether it would be after September / October of 2017 or after October 2018, after April 2019 or October 2019.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Free & Fair Election (CaFFE) said the Cabinet had no legal authority to postpone the elections for the Provincial Councils.

CaFFE Executive Director Keerthi Tennakoon reiterated the election could only be postponed if the government received people’s consent at a referendum.

“Not even a two third majority of Parliament could postpone the PC election. The SLFP has a history of postponing elections unlike the UNP. However, both parties are in unison postponing elections today. Not even the opposition parties including the joint opposition keen on calling for polls,” he said.

Tennakoon said civil society organisations (CSO) also continue to keep mum over government’s anti-democratic actions in the name of ‘good governance.’

- Asian Tribune -

Sri Lanka map showing the nine provinces
diconary view
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