News

EC gets Rs. 10 bn from Budget 2023, purpose unclear

  • EC Chair unsure whether amount solely for LG Poll or all 2023 Polls  
  • Still awaiting AG advice on whether EC can declare LG poll

BY Mirudhula Thambiah

An allocation of around Rs. 10 billion has been made in Budget 2023 for the Election Commission (EC), although the commission is unsure whether this allocation was to be utilised for the Local Government (LG) Poll and/or any other poll to be held in the upcoming year (2023). 

When The Morning asked Election Commission Chairman Attorney Nimal Punchihewa as to the purpose of these funds yesterday (23), he said: “We don’t know; we requested the money on an earlier occasion. This allocation was then reserved in the Budget. We are not clear as to which election this is allocated.”

On an earlier occasion, the Election Commission had requested the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government for budgetary allocations to hold the LG elections. 

Meanwhile, Punchihewa said that the EC has not received any advice from the Attorney General’s (AG) Department with regard to the EC’s power to declare the LG election in the wake of the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, in response to a query by The Morning. And when questioned as to whether he is expecting a response within the course of this week, he said: “It depends on the AG.”

Earlier, the Election Commission was to seek legal advice from AG President’s Counsel Sanjay Rajaratnam on whether it has the power to declare the LG elections following the adoption of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. 

Speaking to The Morning, Punchihewa said on 7 November: “There are some legal problems regarding which we have to get advice on from the AG. Under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, the tenure of all independent Commissions such as the EC will expire. Then, for an interim period, administrative matters could be carried out. 

“However, the declaring of elections is a major matter. We do have the power to make decisions on major matters. Regardless, we have to get the legal view of the AG as to whether, under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, we can declare elections,” he added.

Earlier, Punchihewa told The Morning that a declaration regarding the date of the LG Election will be made by early next year (2023) by the Election Commission. He noted: “Our expectation is to hold the LG Election before 20 March 2023.”