ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ruling party has no intention of holding local government elections soon, the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said, claiming that attempts are under way to use government agents to delay the polls.
SJB general secretary and MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara told reporters on Thursday December 22 that the president had met the chairman of the elections commission the previous day but no decision had been made about when to hold the local government polls, which ought to be held before March 20 next year.
“The election commissioner said in a discussion with us that the polls must be held at least a month early. So for it to be held by at least the end of February, the election should’ve been called by now,” said the MP.
A collective of 16 opposition parties including the SJB had met with the Elections Commission to discuss the local government polls. MP Madduma Bandara said the commission had pledged timely elections.
“But we learned that last week the president had convened the Election Commission. He had met them yesterday too, but no decision was made about holding the election.
“We also heard that GAs will be called and a problem will be created through them to delay the election. They’re apparently going to be asked if the conditions are right for an election,” the MP claimed.
“The government is afraid of elections. They cannot go before the people,” he added.
Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and former government heavyweight Udaya Gammanpila speaking at a separate press conference shared the SJB general secretary’s sentiments.
The EC’s enthusiasm for holding elections is contrasted by the government’s lack of enthusiasm for an election, he said.
The MP, who now sits in the opposition as an independent, claimed that there are three reasons the government won’t go to the polls yet. The newly introduced personal income tax hike, which will come into effect on January 01, warnings by trade unions of longer power cuts in the new year, and the apparent delay in the IMF board approval for its eagerly awaited bailout package.
“We will not allow the government to rob the people of their right to an election,” said Gammanpila.
A number of opposition parties have claimed that the government’s proposal to cut down the number of local councillors by half – from a staggering 8,000 to 4,000 – and the lengthy delimitation process that it would require is a delay tactic.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), meanwhile), claimed that it is ready to face elections.
SLPP MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena told reporters that the party has already prepared its nomination lists for a local government election.
Meanwhile, the United National Party (UNP), the party led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and represented in parliament by a single MP, is even more ambitious.
UNP general secretary said on December 20 that what is most timely at present would be a presidential election.
“We will field President Wickremesinghe as the candidate to save the nation,” he said.
Responding to Bandara’s comment, SJB general secretary Maduma Bandara told the privately owned NewsFirst network that evening that while the SJB was indeed ready for any election, a presidential election cannot be held constitutionally at the moment.
The time was right for local government polls, he said, claiming that the government was resorting to tricks to delay the local government elections.
“We say allow the people to elect a government of their choice,” he said. (Colombo/Dec22/2022)