Lack of Police security delaying ballot printing
3 months ago | BY Mirudhula Thambiah
- Govt. Printer says Police has not deployed cops for security despite multiple requests
- EC Chairman has also requested on behalf of Govt. Printer
Government Printer Gangani Liyanage stated yesterday (16) 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 yesterday to provide security for the Government Printing Department in order to print the required ballot papers.
Speaking to The Daily Morning, Liyanage said: “Initially, the EC wrote to the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) of the Western Province (Deshabandu Tennakoon) to provide security, but it was not provided. Since there was no response, I spoke directly to the DIG – Elections, and he requested I write to the IGP directly and copy it to Tennakoon. I sent a letter and telephoned them, requesting that security be sent. By that time, we needed Police security. But, they didn’t respond. So, I then informed the EC. It is the EC that should request Police security for us. They wrote a letter today (16) as well, requesting security.
“On previous occasions, when the EC wrote to the Police to provide security, they did provide security. If one ballot paper goes missing, it would be a problem. If we are moving ballot papers from section to section, even then, we need Police security as we don’t just drag them to the other section. We don’t have Police security for that. I promised to give the ballot papers for postal voting by Tuesday (14) and to then commence printing for the Election. Since we did not have security, I put our security and printed the ballot papers for the postal voting in the confidential section. But eventually, the people who work with us were of the view that it is best to not proceed with printing the ballot papers without Police security. On previous occasions, when the papers were being brought to the Government Printing Department, Police personnel were deployed. Police security is the main reason for the delay in printing”.
She also noted that since there was no Police security provided, the ballot papers have to be rechecked. “We have to check from the beginning since we have printed half of them without Police security. However, checking is not time-consuming. We have to check and hand them over.”
Although she notified the authorities of the lack of funds to print ballot papers, she pointed out that she had managed to print 50% of the papers. However, the lack of Police security is the main reason for the delay, she noted.
Due to delays that occurred in the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting, the EC, on Tuesday, wrote to Treasury and Finance Ministry Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana to release funds to print ballot papers for the same, as Rs. 460 million is required to print ballot papers for the entire LG election.
Punchihewa said: “On Tuesday, we sent a letter to Siriwardana expecting a response very soon to commence the work. We have postponed the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting but not the voting dates. There are no changes in the postal voting dates. The Treasury had not provided funds to print the ballot papers. That is the problem.” When queried as to whether there would be any delays in the postal voting, he said: “No. There are only changes in the date of distribution of the ballot papers.”
The postal voting for the LG poll is scheduled to be held from 22-24 February.
Meanwhile, the Government Printer had informed the EC in writing that the printing of ballot papers for the upcoming LG election cannot proceed sans the funds being released. Therefore, the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting scheduled to be held on Wednesday (15) has been postponed indefinitely.