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PAFFREL urges holding of local government elections

a year ago

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Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the local government elections need to be held to ensure the people’s right to elect their representatives, charged the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL). In a media release, PAFFREL noted that the Minister of Public Services, Provincial Councils, and Local Government has submitted a proposal to the Cabinet to postpone local government elections by one year. Following are excerpts of the statement. “The Minister has informed the media that the postponement was due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic situation. But it is not difficult for any citizen to comprehend that it has been postponed not because of the Covid pandemic. In the early stages of the Covid wave, the Election Commission was able to hold parliamentary elections across the country successfully. At the same time, the current ruling party, which was in the Opposition at that time, pursued a consistent struggle to hold the election. PAFFREL also stood with the group that appeared for holding the elections. “There are several issues that attract public attention in the question of holding an election at the moment: Will the risk of Covid be increased by holding the elections? Could the country, at this moment, afford the cost of the election (the cost incurred by the Election Commission), which will be around Rs. 6,000-10,000 million? Will action be taken to reduce the number of councilors which has been doubled by the new system, before the next election? Do the people have faith in the people’s representatives who are being appointed at great cost, and will there be any improvement in the living standards of the people by appointing them. “Though the above facts certainly draw the attention of informed citizens, at the moment, it appears that the election is being postponed mainly for political reasons. Several examples in this regard can be cited from the period during and before the previous Yahapalana regime. The manipulation of the electoral map of Sri Lanka by the incumbent ruler at his will is a deadly blow to representative democracy and an insult to the voter. It amounts to depriving the voter, the citizen of his rights to vote particularly this year, the 90th anniversary of universal suffrage. It is also an avoidance of a legitimate opportunity that the government has got to test the public opinion on the policies implemented by the government and change those policies if necessary.. “Looking back at the past four decades, the frustrations and tensions created by the rolling of the electoral map and depriving the opportunity to test the sovereignty of the people ultimately ended up in a series of tragedies. We are still experiencing the adverse consequences of it. We believe that all parties who have held power are more or less responsible for this unfortunate situation. “We believe that the inalienable right of the citizens to democratically elect their representatives from time to time, and express their opinion, should be protected under whatever circumstances, and also would like to stress that if  they are deprived of that opportunity, there is a great risk of it manifesting  in different forms.”

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