Security and development of importance to Elpitiya | Sunday Observer

Security and development of importance to Elpitiya

It is the centre of the town. If one waits on the side and takes a count, eight to 15 vehicles pass per minute. Yet, a line of three wheelers are parked on one side. A little further are some cars. Pedestrians weave a treacherous path between parked vehicles and of those moving. Elpitiya town, on Wednesday (4), appears busy but peaceful against the backdrop of a raging political turmoil as an extraordinary gazette was issued the same week to hold Pradeshiya Sabha (PS) elections on October 11.

The extraordinary gazette, was issued by Returning Officer of Galle District Somarathna Vidhanapathirana. Speaking to the Sunday Observer Vidhanapathirana said the decision was made following the Supreme Court order to the Election Commission to hold the PS election after accepting nominations by the Democratic United National Front (DUNF).

The Elpitiya PS election was postponed when the Supreme Court issued an interim injunction, on January 30, 2018, preventing it being held after the DUNF filed a petition challenging its nominations list being rejected. The rest of the local councils in the country were elected on February 18, 2018.

Residents in the Elpitiya electorate are anticipating political representatives who would develop the town, especially its roads. First time voters Sunday Observer spoke to vowed to vote for a leader with a thorough knowledge on ‘security’.

“Look, when a street lamp is burnt, it is not replaced. We have to wait for months or till an election is closer to get it replaced. We are tired of these politicians,” said 65-year-old P. Piyasena, a retired electrician and a grandfather from Elpitiya town.

He said, however, he will vote for the ‘pohottuwa’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). “Everyone I know will vote for the SLPP because we have a feeling of ‘asalwasikama’ (Neighbourliness). After all we are from the South,” Piyasena said as he waited for the bus to go pick up his grandchild from a class.

His concern about the development of infrastructure facilities of Elpitiya town resonates in most of the residents in the area.

57-year-old Ranjani Widanarachchi, a shopkeeper in Elpitiya town, questioned us as to our experience of the town’s road system. “See the roads? They are all broken and nothing is done about it.

We have to think about a good future for our children. I want to vote for someone who will develop the facilities in this town,” she said

The town had seen changes in the past few years including road development projects, says the Divisional Secretary, H.L.C. Indika. Though the election was not held, she had had the support of all PS members from various parties, regardless of their political differences.

However, these changes are not substantial, say residents. While nearby towns and cities have had complete face lifts; development initiatives in Elpitiya could be called ‘patch up’. The town has been neglected, they lament. There has been no town planning, and education and health facilities had been forgotten for decades, resulting in internal migration, especially into the provincial capital.

“Elpitiya was the second most populated electorate in the district, in 1994. But, just two decades after, in 2015, it became the fifth most populated taking three steps back in the rung,” said the Elpitiya-United Trade Union’s Treasurer, Lalith Senadhira. “60 buses go out of town every morning carrying children to their schools and educational institutions. A significant amount of residents have migrated, so much so that there is a society called ‘ElGa’ comprising of Elpitiya residents who have migrated to Galle,” he added.

The local council has to pay immediate attention to the garbage disposal of the town, says Chaminda Jayasinghe, the JVP organizer of the area. “Neither a proper system for garbage collection nor disposal is employed in the town. Garbage is dumped on the roadside or in any vacant space. Most of the time children could be seen walking on garbage dumps on their way to school. It is a health hazard as well as an eyesore,” he said.

With a population of nearly 65,000, according to the 2012 census, Elpitiya, in Galle district, is famous for its tea and cinnamon cultivations. Rubber is also grown at commercial level, while paddy farming has dwindled over the years. The town boasts of a base hospital, one central/secondary school, a bus depot, a marketplace, many government and private offices and a plethora of shops and restaurants. A new feature in the town is the number of hotels.

Elpitiya held its previous PS elections in 2011. The UPFA secured 10 seats with 58.54 per cent of votes, while the United National Party (UNP) got four seats with 30.59 per cent votes. An Independent Group won one seat on the council. Traditionally, Elpitiya has polled well for the SLFP led alliance, and this time many of those votes are likely to transfer to the SLPP.

According to 32-year-old Nilmini Weerasinghe, a mother of four from Pituwala, Elpitiya, UPFA won because it kept the country safe from terrorism.

“We want to live in peace. When the former president (Mahinda Rajapaksa) was in power, he eradicated terrorism, and, when the new government took over, security was neglected. Look what that led to,” she said talking about the Easter Sunday attacks.

Her views resonated with those of a group of 18-year-old G.C.E Advanced Level students who will be voting for the first time this year.

Praboth Devinda from the group said he and his friends are voting for a President who is knowledgeable in national security, and at the upcoming PS elections they will vote for representatives from the party that the President represents.

Responding to this, UNP representative in Elpitiya Bhathiya Liyanaarachchi said that the government had already started development from the Grama Sevaka (GS) division level and have formulated a comprehensive plan to develop Elpitiya town. “We have already spent over Rs. 5 million to develop each Grama Sevaka division. We hope to continue development projects,” he told the Sunday Observer.

(Pix: Sarath Peiris)

Uproar at Polls Commission over Elpitiya election date

Disagreement over the date of elections for the Elpitiya Pradeshiya Sabha has caused ripples within the three-member Elections Commission.

Last week, EC Member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole told the media that the Commission had never held a sitting in order to decide on the dates suggested by the Returning Officer for the Galle District.

According to the Local Government Authorities Act, the Commission does not need to “approve” the date decided on by the Returning Officer, who manages all modalities and aspects of the election once it is declared.

However, in this case, the Returning Officer had consulted the EC.

Prof. Hoole alleges that the Commission never met officially to decide on the date. The EC Member said he was opposed to the Elpitiya PS election being held so close to the Presidential Election since the smaller poll could affect the outcome of a major national election to choose the country’s next head of state. “My argument is that the Elpitiya poll may be delayed by a mere month – this is not something that will affect the franchise, just so that it cannot be construed as having influenced or interfered with the presidential election,” Prof. Hoole told Sunday Observer.

However, Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya claimed that he had “consulted” with both Commissioners and while Prof. Hoole had been opposed to the October 11 date, Dr Nalin Abeysekera had agreed. “2-1 is a majority decision in the Commission,” Deshapriya said.

But Prof. Hoole charges that the quorum for the commission to sit is three, and no such meeting was held. “A 2-1 decision is okay, but I must be allowed to record my position at an official meeting,” he said.

Sunday Observer learns that the issue will be taken up for discussion when the Commission next meets tomorrow.