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Don’t help Govt. delay LG polls, Opposition parties urge Mahinda Deshapriya

3 months ago

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  •  Sajith asks Mahinda Deshapriya to not be ‘mastermind’ of conspiracy
  •  JVP recalls promise Deshapriya made to not postpone elections
  •  G.L. urges M.D. to not be a ‘pawn in an anti-democratic scheme’
  •  Dayasiri asks M.D. to not be part of conspiracy
  • Delimitation Chair Deshapriya says unethical for him to respond
BY Safrah Fazal and Mirudhula Thambiah The country’s key Opposition parties have alleged that the National Delimitation Committee chaired by former Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya is a ploy by the Government to postpone the Local Government (LG) elections, and urged Deshapriya to not be a “partner” to such a conspiracy, while Deshapriya responded by stating that he does not wish to comment on the matter, as it would be unethical to do so. Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa alleged that the Government was devising various tactics to postpone the LG elections, which are expected to be held in March 2023, adding that the Delimitation Committee chaired by Deshapriya is one such tactic. He urged Deshapriya to not be the “mastermind” of the conspiracy to postpone the LG elections.  Speaking at a gathering, Premadasa said: “The Government is purposely and earnestly devising various methods and tactics to postpone the elections. All of a sudden, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena appointed a Delimitation Committee and appointed Deshapriya as its Chairman. Instead of holding elections, they have created a Delimitation Committee, and have planned to reduce elected members to LG bodies by half and to introduce a new electoral system.  “The public is not asking for a new electoral system. They are asking for an election. We ask Deshapriya, don’t be a partner to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Government that is postponing elections. As we are aware, you say you are a follower of socialist principles. If you are a true socialist, you will not agree to postpone elections. We know that you will not postpone elections, but don’t become the mastermind of the conspiracy to postpone the elections.” Also speaking at a gathering, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva stated that he hopes that, as assured by Deshapriya previously, the LG elections will not be postponed.  “When they continuously engage in delimitation, the date for the elections will lapse and the elections will not be held. That’s what they are working on. But Deshapriya said that although they are working on the delimitation, they will not be postponing the elections. We think, considering he is the former Election Commission Chairman, that he will hold the elections in March. It’s alright to demarcate the wards, but don’t be prepared to postpone the elections, as, if so, we will have to return to the streets.” Silva alleged that plans to postpone elections were conspired as the incumbent Government is aware that it would lose the elections if such were held.  “They are attempting to postpone the elections that are expected to be held in March, which were postponed by a year already. Why do they want to postpone it? That is because they know that if they do hold the elections, they will lose. How are they trying to postpone? By stating that they need a new electoral system, and the need to reduce the number of members, and the need to also demarcate wards for Local Authorities, according to a new electoral system. They are changing these wards. For this, they have appointed a Delimitation Committee Chaired by Deshapriya.” Meanwhile, Freedom People’s Congress Member and Opposition MP Prof. G.L. Peiris questioned why the Government was insistent on delimitation, and charged that there was a hidden agenda underlying these sudden decisions. Speaking at a media briefing, Peiris urged Deshapriya to maintain his honour and to not be a “pawn” in the scheme to destroy democracy and postpone elections.  “Deshapriya has maintained a title of honour in this country. They are attempting to use him as a pawn to destroy democracy and delay elections. He has knowledge regarding delimitation, as he has been involved in this subject for a long time. We make a personal appeal to him: Don’t become someone else’s pawn and don’t grant your blessing or support to this scheme to postpone elections.” He added: “They want to reduce the LG members from 8,000 to 4,000. Gunawardena chaired a committee that proposed to increase LG authorities’ membership to 8,000. Now, another committee is appointed to reverse what that committee did. Why do they want to reverse it now? It is very clear that there is a hidden agenda behind this. What’s the hidden agenda? To postpone elections. This Government will not even receive 20% of the public’s vote. That will be proven if this election is held.” Speaking to the media, Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary and MP Dayasiri Jayasekara also urged Deshapriya to not be involved in the “conspiracy” of postponing elections.  “The public has some confidence in Deshapriya. He is strongly against the postponement of elections. So, we respectfully ask him to not be involved in this undertaking, because this is clearly a conspiracy by this Government to postpone the LG elections. If they want to reduce the number of members, then what they need to do is to remove the 25% that were appointed in the end. This is not a big deal. Also, there is a delimitation programme and mechanism already in place. They can take one to one-and-a-half weeks to go through that and resolve the issues pertaining to delimitation. This is not an issue that they need to waste four to five months on.” Meanwhile, when The Morning contacted Deshapriya yesterday (7) pertaining to the allegations levelled, he said: “I don’t want to comment on this, and it is unethical to comment on it. Even if I wasn’t appointed, someone else would be appointed to the committee.” Premier Gunawardena, in his capacity as the Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, issued an extraordinary gazette appointing a five-member National Delimitation Committee for the demarcation of wards for Local Authorities. J.R.V. Dissanayake, W.M.M.R. Adikari, Dr. K. Thavalingam, and I.A. Hameed will serve as members of the committee along with Deshapriya, who is its Chairman. The National Delimitation Committee is effective from 1 November 2022 to 28 February 2023, as per the gazette notification.

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