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EC to seek SC order to avoid ‘contempt’

EC to seek SC order to avoid ‘contempt’

20 Feb 2023 | By Mirudhula Thambiah

To avoid being in contempt of court regarding the recent undertaking given by it before the Supreme Court (SC) that the LG election will be held as planned, the Election Commission (EC) intends to file a motion to the SC claiming that they are unable to perform their statutory duties due to the lack of funds, shortage of fuel for transportation, and the delay in ballot paper printing for the postal voting of the Local Government (LG) polls in the next couple of days.

Speaking to The Daily Morning, EC Chairman Attorney Nimal Punchihewa said: “We told courts that we are carrying out our statutory duties in order to hold elections. We informed the court that so far, we have commenced our duties. Courts said writ of mandamus (an order from a court to any government, subordinate court, corporation, or public authority, to do some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do) would be issued only if we are not carrying out the duties, and since we are exercising our duties, a need does not arise to decide as per the writ of mandamus. Therefore, both petitions were rejected by the courts. But now the undertaking we delivered cannot be done since it is blocked. If we do not deliver the undertaking it would be a contempt of court. Now we are unable to do it, and it is out of our control. Therefore, we will inform the courts that we are unable to carry out our duties due to such problems. A motion claiming lack of funds, fuel shortage, and delay in printing ballot papers for postal voting will be filed within the next couple of days.”

Punchihewa also stated that the EC is informing their position to the SC for their safety and noted that he is expecting the related SC decision by the end of this week.

“Following the Supreme Court decision, and if we still do not have funds, the EC will have to make a decision with regard to the Local Government election date,” he added.

When queried regarding what was discussed with the Treasury officials last week he said: “The Treasury notified the lack of sufficient funds, and they are bound by some Cabinet decision. The Cabinet had taken two decisions – one is on the expenses only for essential services such as salaries, pension, medicines, etc. and the second decision is to not pay for any other additional services without the approval of the Minister.”

Earlier, the SC decided to end the hearing of two writ of mandamus petitions filed by a group of parliamentarians including Samagi Jana Balawegaya  General Secretary Ranjith Maddumabandara and Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara requesting the apex court to hold the Local Government elections as soon as possible.

Following an undertaking given by the EC before the court that the election will be held as planned, the SC bench comprising Justices S. Thurairajah, A.H.M.D. Nawaz, and Shiran Gunaratne made this decision.

Last week, the EC postponed postal voting of the LG polls that were scheduled to be held from 22-24 February due to a delay in printing ballot papers due to the lack of funds.

Government Printer Gangani Liyanage stated last week that the “main reason” for the delay in the printing of the ballot papers for the postal voting at the Local Government (LG) poll is that despite many requests made to the Police Department, including to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne by both the Election Commission (EC) and the Government Printing Department to provide security for the ballot printing process, Police personnel are yet to be deployed for the same. 

EC Chairman Attorney Nimal G. Punchihewa told The Daily Morning that he had written to IGP Wickramaratne last week to provide security for the Government Printing Department in order to print the required ballot papers.


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