2020 general election: Concerns over controlling political meetings

Difficult to control politicians and crowds: PHIs
Following guidelines doubtful at election meetings

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Public Health Inspectors’ Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) has raised concerns over their ability to control and monitor election-related activities in ensuring that politicians, their supporters, and voters adhere to the election-related health guidelines.

PHIUSL President Upul Rohana told The Morning that it would be impossible for PHIs to take any action against those who violate the health guidelines issued for the election, as those guidelines are not legally binding.

Unless the guidelines are gazetted, it alone would not help reduce the threat of spreading the coronavirus, he stressed.

“We will have to deal with politicians and unless the guidelines are gazetted, we won’t be able to do much if somebody acts against those,” Rohana stressed.

The Election Commission (EC) last week announced 5 August as the new date for the long-delayed parliamentary election, which was earlier scheduled to be held on 20 June after it was postponed from 25 April, the initial date set for the polls.

Meanwhile, the EC too has requested the Government to gazette all health guidelines under the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Act.

EC member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole told The Morning the guidelines given by health authorities including the World Health Organisation (WHO) were positive, and they have given the green light to hold the election but also advised to be cautious and to follow all the necessary health guidelines.

However, a concern was raised at the EC meeting held recently regarding the inability to take legal action against those who violate health guidelines issued by the health authorities while preparing and holding the election.

“The health guidelines given by health authorities clearly mention that the maximum number of people that could attend a meeting is 100. But it has not mentioned what actions the Police can take against those who violate the guideline,” Prof. Hoole stressed.