COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s Election Commission on Sunday (12) wrote to President Ranil Wickremesinghe requesting him to release the necessary funds to conduct the much-delayed local council elections in the debt-ridden country next month.
The local body polls, which was earlier scheduled for March 9, got postponed to April 25, due to a plethora of reasons linked to the country’s current economic crisis.
Chairman of the Election Commission Attorney-at-Law Nimal G. Punchihewa said he has written to President Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister, urging him to release the necessary funds to hold the local body polls on the scheduled date.
The move comes after officials in the Treasury told the Election Commission last month that funds for the local body polls have not been disbursed by the finance ministry.
Earlier this month, the Government’s Printer Gangani Liyanage made written requests to the Treasury Secretary and police chief to hold the much-delayed local council elections.
Liyanage’s office said the inability to print the ballot papers to conduct the postal voting from February 21 to 24 made the Elections Commission postpone the elections.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court issued a directive to the Treasury that the conduct of the polls should not be hindered.
Following the court order, the election date was fixed for April 25 with postal voting to be conducted between March 18 and 21.
President Wickremesinghe, who is currently spearheading negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package, has maintained that the government cannot afford to hold local elections at a time when the state’s expenditure was prioritized to pay for essentials to run the country.
Opposition parties, however, accuse Wickremesinghe of being scared to hold the elections and subverting democracy to gain political mileage.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the majority of councils in the last election held in 2018. It has suffered major splits since the economic crisis.
The election to appoint new administrations to 340 local councils for a four-year term was postponed since March last year due to the ongoing economic crisis.
The election was the subject of several court cases with parties filing for and against the holding of it.
Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking political turmoil in the country which led to the ouster of the all-powerful Rajapaksa family.
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