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Sri Lanka floods trigger rethink on presidential polls

EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s elections chief has been asked to consider postponing the January 8, 2015 presidential poll because heavy rains that have caused floods and mudslides could disrupt distribution of poll cards, a report said.

Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s lawyer was among those who raised the issued during talks with Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya last Friday, the privately-owned Sunday Times newspaper said.

But lawyers representing the ruling party’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa opposed any postponement, it said.

Distribution of poll cards, sent to all registered voters shortly before an election giving information like the location of polling stations and opening and closing times, has already begun.

But heavy rains that have caused floods and mudslides in several parts of the country have displaced over a million people and killed 21.

The worst affected region is the east, home to minority Tamils and Muslims, as well as the central hill country where there is also a significant presence of minorities.

The island’s minority communities are believed to be against Rajapaksa given allegations of human rights abuses and civilian casualties in the war that defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009 and inaction against Sinhalese Buddhist supremacist groups responsible for more recent attacks on Muslims.

Almost half-a-million people were displaced by floods in the eastern Batticaloa district and another 305,124 in the adjoining Amparai district.

The highest number of deaths occurred in the hill country district of Badulla where 14 people died in earth-slips triggered by incessant rain over the last few days and seven were reported missing.

The Sunday Times newspaper quoted Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed as saying the Commissioner will visit all affected districts to make a personal assessment of the situation before deciding on the conduct of the poll.