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EC to meet health officials tomorrow

BY SARAH HANNAN

The Election Commission (EC) will be meeting with Health Ministry officials tomorrow (16) to discuss the potential risks the country would face given that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had increased in the country over the past few days.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, EC Director General Saman Ratnayke noted that the Commission will be closely working with the Ministry of Health over the coming weeks to discuss the precautions to be employed should there be an outbreak situation in the country. Based on their recommendations, the EC might issue guidelines on how the campaign should take place.

“The Commission has always been against political parties conducting public rallies as they could easily adapt more modern ways of promoting themselves through online platforms. Also, public rallies are a waste of money and time,” he said.

“However, we understand door-to-door campaigns would still need to take place. But given the current health risks, we doubt that people would want to allow small teams to visit their premises either,” he said.

However, Ratnayake acknowledged that first-time contestants might face a challenge if such restrictions are to be imposed on their campaigns as their faces or names are not familiar to the public and they would not have a chance to familiarise their contestant numbers to the people, which might affect their total preferential votes.

He added that the meeting tomorrow had been scheduled when the election date was gazetted to discuss what process the EC would have to follow should the coronavirus spread over the following weeks.

When asked whether the upcoming general election could be postponed if the situation escalates, Ratnayake said that it is too early to arrive at such conclusions or decisions. He added that no political party had formally requested the postponement of the elections, although they have been discussing probabilities.

He also noted that it would be a decision that the EC will have to take after consulting the Ministry of Health, and there should be a justification to postpone the elections in such a situation.