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All Opposition parties demand EC hold election by 19 March

All Opposition parties demand EC hold election by 19 March

06 Mar 2023 | BY Mirudhula Thambiah

  • NPP, SJB, SLFP, TNA unite in letter to Election Commission
  • Say no need to consult Treasury Secretary after Supreme Court order

All main Opposition parties – namely the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), National People’s Power (NPP), Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), and breakaway factions of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) – jointly wrote to the Election Commission (EC) yesterday (5), demanding that the Local Government(LG) election be held on or before 19 March, fulfilling the undertaking given to the Supreme Court(SC) by the EC.

The letter sent by the Opposition parties addressed to EC Chairman Attorney Nimal G. Punchihewa and Members of the EC stated: “Now that the SC has removed the only impediment to holding the election according to law, it is your imperative duty to conduct the said election on or before 19 March 2023. We do not see any reason why you should consult the Secretary to the Treasury or anyone else, now that they are bound to comply with the interim order issued by the SC as aforesaid. We, therefore, request you to re-fix the date of the LG election to a date before 20 March 2023 as required by law or the earliest possible date without any further delay. You should not prevaricate on the pretext of consultation with anyone.”

The letter further noted: “We write consequent to the order of the SC made on 3 March 2023, in SC FR 69/2023 restraining the Minister of Finance, the Secretary to the Treasury, and others from withholding necessary funds for the conduct of the LG election that was scheduled to be held on 9 March 2023. The court has also made a further order to the Government Printer with respect to the printing of ballot papers. You gave an undertaking in SC Writ 6/2023 and SC Writ 7/2023 that you will hold the said elections according to law. You are aware that according to law, the said elections should be held on or before 19 March 2023. When the Secretary to the Treasury and the Government Printer did not cooperate with you, you filed a motion in the aforesaid two cases seeking the court’s direction on them.”

In addition to the above request, the Opposition parties also notified that they wish to meet EC representatives tomorrow (7) at the Election Secretariat.

The said letter was endorsed by NPP MP Vijitha Herath, SLPP breakaway MP Prof. G.L. Peiris, SJB General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, TPA Leader and MP Mano Ganesan, ACMC Leader and MP Rishad Bathiudeen, SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem, TNA Spokesman and President’s Counsel MP M.A. Sumanthiran, TNA MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, and SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera.

Last Friday (3), the SC issued an interim order to Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Mahinda Siriwardena, preventing him from withholding the funds allocated through the 2023 Budget for election purposes.

The Supreme Court three-member bench comprising Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Janaka de Silva, and Priyantha Fernando gave this order while also providing permission to take up a fundamental rights (FR) petition filed by Madduma Bandara for the hearing.

The bench ordered the parties to file the objections and counter objections related to the petition in accordance with the SC rules and ordered that the hearing of the petition would be held on 26 May.

The court also issued another interim order preventing the retention of funds allocated to the Department of Government Printing for the purpose of printing ballot papers.

The EC last Friday announced that it would convene a special meeting tomorrow (7) with regard to the 2023 Local Government poll, which was initially scheduled to be held on 9 March but was later postponed.

Following the interim order issued by the SC last Friday, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said the Ministry would respect and act according to the decision.

“We should abide by the court decision. It is our responsibility. Therefore, as the Finance Ministry, we respect the decision and will act accordingly,” he added.

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