Election as planned, say Party leaders | Sunday Observer

Election as planned, say Party leaders

The last week’s roller coaster of developments over the holding of local government elections, served to confuse the matter further as to when the election will be held.

The Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya had previously announced that the Commission will take action to initiate the issuance of the notice of intent to hold the election by the returning officers on November 27. This notice accompanies the invitation calling for nominations from political parties and independent bodies.

But with the Appeal Court ruling to stay the Gazette issued by Provincial Council and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha, dated February 17, 2017, it was unclear how the Election Commission will proceed with the work to hold the election by the end of January, 2018 as proposed earlier. If the election notice was issued on November 27, the nominations period would have been from December 11 to December 14, as per the dictates of the Act. The election date would have fallen in late January or early February.

A crucial meeting was also set to happen on Saturday afternoon, between the three Commissioners of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnjeevan Hoole and President’s Counsel Nalin J. Abeysekera.

At the end of the meeting a decision was due on whether they would seek permission from the Court to hold polls in the undisputed local government bodies, a senior Commission member told Sunday Observer prior to the meeting.

The legal experts have pointed out that only 70 local bodies have disputes over the boundaries and the number of members. The petitioners have challenged the Minister’s actions to alter the boundaries and the number of members, in these LG bodies, going against the delimitation report, for which he had no jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was then on an official visit in New Delhi advised his officials here to seek legal advice as to how the election process could be expedited in the face of the legal battle by six voters.

Shortly after the ruling by the Appeal Court on Monday to stay the gazette notice demarcating new wards and members to the local government bodies till December 4, the Joint Opposition filed a no –confidence motion in parliament against Minister Faiszer Musthapha. The JVP followed suit on Friday. But the leading polls monitor, PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi called it a futile attempt since their action will not ensure LG polls in January 2018.

The three-judge bench court reading out the stay order last Monday said since there has not been a notice of intent and a call for nominations by election authorities, the action of the court will not severely affect LG elections. Accordingly, the decision was taken to stay the gazette till December 4, only up to the next hearing date and not for the entire duration of the case. The Attorney General is expected to file a motion in the Appeal Court to get the case re-fixed for November 30.

He was beseeched by the Party Leaders on Friday to get the case expedited, in order that this will not create a conducive environment to further postpone the election.

The Party leaders at this meeting decided that the election should be held as planned.

The JO, and the JVP accused the government for resorting to delaying tactics to stay the election for fear of defeat. The Chief Government Whip Lakshman Kiriella in parliament refuted the claims, explaining that the delay was due to the court case and the accusations against the government were plain malicious. The Speaker avowed to look into the matter. Both the main parties in the government had clarified that they did not want a delay in LG elections. Fisheries Minister and UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweeera said the SLFP Central Committee which met under President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday decided to support any effort to expedite holding of the LG polls.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission Chairman told a workshop on Saturday morning that he was disheartened by the recent developments over the LG polls and their hands were tied due to the Court case.