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Sri Lanka PC polls: no int’l pressure, but people’s rights must be upheld, says govt

ECONOMYNEXT – There is no move to expedite Sri Lanka’s long-delayed provincial council elections at the behest of foreign powers but simply an attempt to ensure that the people’s rights are upheld, a cabinet spokesman said today.

Asked whether the government is in a hurry to hold the PC polls due to pressure from India, co-cabinet spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said there was no special attempt to expedite the elections.

“The previous government postponed the PC polls indefinitely. The 13th amendment to the constitution is the law of the land. It is our responsibility to correct the necessary legal provisions to [hold the elections]. It is not about whether we agree with it or not; it is simply the law, which we must obey. Nor is it a question about India, America or any other country,” he said.

“The shortcomings of the last few years must be fixed. The duty of the present government is to uphold the people’s rights and to protect the law,” he added.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week said PC polls must be held soon either under the previous Provincial Councils Elections Act or under the proposed new (Amendment) Act with its “complications” removed, the president’s office said.

Rajapaksa made these remarks at a meeting with the Association of Provincial Council Members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the Presidential Secretariat last Friday (12).

The President had said that the Amended Provincial Councils Act which included a new delimitation of the constituencies, a quota for women candidates and other changes “had been defeated by the former government which proposed it.” Sri Lanka’s supreme court determined that the PC polls can be held under either the old or new system but upon the amending legislation being passed. The Rajapaksa government has yet pass amendments to the (Amendment) Act to conduct the elections under the previous proportional representation system.

At present, he said, the provincial councils are functioning without the people’s representatives in the council, necessitating speedy elections.

All nine provinces in Sri Lanka are currently being run by their respective governors following the end of their five-year terms at various points. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also called for the early conduct of polls, a sentiment echoed by India. The provincial councils are a legacy of the Indo-Lanka accord signed in 1987. (Colombo/Mar16/2021)

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