Opp. asks if AG, EC backing conspiracy to put off LG polls

GL educates EC on election laws

SLPP rebel to vote against Budget

BY Shamindra Ferdinando

Accusing President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena of conspiring to put off scheduled Local Government polls indefinitely, Prof. G.L. Peiris has asked whether the Election Commission (EC) is backing the government’s efforts to postpone polls.

The former Foreign Minister has found fault with the EC for seeking the opinion of Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, as regards its legitimacy, consequent to the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, one of the rebel SLPP factions, Prof. Peiris yesterday (21) stressed that there was absolutely no requirement for the EC to consult the AG as the transitional provision in the new law clearly stated the existing outfit remained intact until the setting up of the new EC.

The academic asked whether an attempt was being made by the powers that be to take cover behind the AG’s opinion to postpone polls.

The former law professor, while appreciating the assurance received from the EC recently that the scheduled election would be held, said that nevertheless the combined Opposition was quite concerned about the EC’s decision to consult the AG.

The EC consists of Nimal G. Punchihewa (Chairman), S.B. Divaratne, M.M. Mohamad, K.P.P. Pathirana and P. S.M. Charles.

Prof. Peiris dealt with the issue at hand on Saturday (19) when he addressed Parliament on the fifth day of the 2023 budget debate. The former minister told the House that the EC had resorted to, what he called, wholly unnecessary and wrong course of action.

Speaking on behalf of the combined opposition pushing for Local Government polls, both in parliament and at yesterday’s media briefing, Prof. Peiris said that in case the Attorney General took up a stand contrary to that of the transitional provision in the new law, they would immediately seek legal remedy.

The SLPP National List MP reminded that the Supreme Court on numerous occasions has countermanded the position taken by the government chief legal officer. Reference was also made to certain rulings given by the Supreme Court over the years to prove that the government couldn’t take cover behind the AG’s opinion.

Prof. Peiris questioned whether President Wickremesinghe and Premier Gunawardena sought to put off Local Government polls on the pretext of taking urgent measures to reduce the number of Local Government members.

Pointing out that Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Yahapalana Premier, and Gunawardena as the then Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that recommended electoral reforms, paved the way for the expansion of the Local Government members from over 4,000 to over 8,000, they were now spearheading efforts to prune the set up.

Referring to the recent appointment of a delimitation committee to demarcate wards of local authorities, Prof. Peiris stressed that the Premier, the Minister in charge of the subject didn’t enjoy the power required to appoint the committee. The Premier could have appointed a committee to review the set-up, Prof. Peiris said, questioning the appointment of the delimitation committee.

Prof. Peiris maintained that the government was working overtime to make a case for the postponement of election. The former minister pointed out that on Oct. 17, the Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana and Public Administration Secretary Priyantha Mayadunne informed the President’s Office that over 8,000 Local Government members were an unbearable burden. On the same day, the Chairman of Delimitation Committee, Mahinda Deshapriya, declared that his outfit could complete its work quickly while the Cabinet of Ministers approved the action taken in this regard.

If the government succeeded in this despicable project, it would definitely try to put off the general election, Prof. Peiris said, vowing to derail such plans.

Responding to media queries, Prof. Peiris explained the EC would have to set the process in motion in mid December if it was to ensure the conduct of election in the first week of March 2023 to pave the way for the setting up of Local Authorities by March 20.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris, having accused the government of failing to address the burning economic issues, declared that the Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa wouldn’t vote for the Budget at the end of the second reading today (Tuesday, 5 pm).

Prof. Peiris said that Budget 2023 hadn’t addressed the real issues and would, in fact, cause further deterioration of the already bankrupt economy.

The other SLPP rebel group (Utthara Lanka Sabhagaya), too, has declared that it wouldn’t vote for the Budget.


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