JVP questions PM’s role in bid to postpone LG polls

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday (10) said that the genuine Opposition was seriously concerned about the role played by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in the ongoing efforts to postpone the scheduled Local Government polls.

The Election Commission is duty bound to conduct the polls to ensure the re-constitution of LG bodies by March 20, 2023, MP Dissanayake said.

Lawmaker Dissanayake, who represents Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) in P,arliament disclosed that they were aware of Premier Gunawardena twice summoning members of the Election Commission (EC) to his office before President Ranil Wickremesinghe met them at the Presidential Secretariat.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the lion’s share of LG bodies, at the last LG polls, held in early February, 2018.

Acknowledging that the Premier also served as the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, lawmaker Dissanayake said that except for Mrs. P.S.M. Charles, other members had been present on both occasions. Legal expert Dr. Jayatissa Costa, PC, had been present, in his capacity as the Advisor to the Premier.

The EC consists of Nimal G. Punchihewa (Chairman), S.B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohammed, K.P. P. Pathirana and Mrs. P. S.M. Charles. Director General, EC, Saman Sri Ratnayake, too, has attended all meetings with the Premier and the President, held in December 2022 and January, so far, this year.

MP Dissanayake said that Premier Gunawardena owed an explanation why he summoned EC members twice, within 10 days, in December. The JVPer pointed out that the PM’s Office, as well as the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, didn’t issue statements in that regard.

The JVPer said that Premier Gunawardena had been present at both meetings summoned by President Wickremesinghe to discuss ways and means to indefinitely put off the LG polls.

Lawmaker Dissanayake found fault with the EC for delaying the announcement, on nominations, though, constitutionally, the outfit exercised the right to set dates for elections, after Sept. 20, 2020. In a way, the EC facilitated the government’s agenda by unnecessarily delaying the announcement, lawmaker Dissanayake alleged, urging the media not to be deceived by government propaganda meant to justify its disgraceful conduct.

Attorney General, Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, too, has been brought into the shameful operation, MP Dissanayake said, pointing out the government’s Chief Legal Officer was present at the Presidential Secretariat when EC members attended the controversial meetings.

Dissanayake said that the EC owed an explanation whether the President and the Prime Minister exerted pressure on them. Those engaged in election monitoring process should clearly state their position regarding the EC being summoned ahead of elections, the MP said. The JVPer said that the issue at hand should be examined against the backdrop of declarations made by the ruling SLPP that it was ready to contest the LG polls, together with the UNP.

“We cannot ignore the fact that Premier Gunawardena, and two other MEP MPs, Sisira Jayakody and Yadamini Gunawardena, were elected and appointed on the SLPP ticket and National List, respectively,” MP Dissanayake said.

The JVP leader said that both President and the Premier led political parties, represented in Parliament, and were planning to contest LG polls in case their efforts failed.

Courtesy The Island

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