Election commission can function with three members says chairman

By Himal Kotelawala

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s National Election Commission (NEC) is yet to be formally informed of the surprise resignation of a Commission member, NEC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa said, but added that the resignation of one member would have no impact on the functioning of the commission.

Punchihewa said the widely reported resignation of commission member P. S. M. Charles would have no bearing on the upcoming local government elections.

“There were media reports about the resignation, but we have yet to be informed officially by the commission member or by any relevant authority,” he said.

Media reports that Charles had handed over her resignation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday (25) led to speculation that it would lead to a delay in holding the local government polls.

However, according to Punchihewa, the five-member commission can function with a minimum of three members and Charles’ departure would not be an impediment to the conduct of the election that’s scheduled to be held on March 9.

Former NEC chairman Mahinda Deshapriya also said in a post on his official Facebook page Thursday (26) that the resignation would not affect the functions of the Commission, as per Section 104 of the constitution.

The relevant provision is as follows:

  1. (1) The quorum for any meeting of the Commission shall be three members.

(2) (a) The Chairman of the Commission shall preside at all meetings of the Commission and in the absence of the Chairman from any meeting of the Commission, a member elected by the members present from amongst themselves shall preside at such meeting.

(b) Decisions of the Commission shall be by a majority of the members present and voting at the meeting at which the decision is taken, and in the event of an equality of votes, the Chairman or the member presiding at the meeting shall have a casting vote.

(3) The Commission shall have power to act notwithstanding any vacancy in the membership of the Commission, and no act or proceeding or decision of the Commission shall be invalid or be deemed to be invalid by reason only of such vacancy or any defect in the appointment of a member.

Opposition parties in Sri Lanka have been accusing the government of attempting to delay the local government polls fearing a humiliating defeat. The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), however, claims it is confident of a favourable outcome at the polls.

Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe is reportedly insistent that now is not the time for elections as Sri Lanka’s recovery from its worst currency crisis in decades is still in progress.

Wickremesinghe is instead keen on an early presidential election to be held after Sri Lanka has secured a 2.9 billion US dollar bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to officials, IMF board approval for the extended fund facility (EFF) is likely to be given by March following assurances by India to the IMF of the regional power’s support to Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring plans. Officials are also optimistic of Chinese cooperation in ongoing negotiations.



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