Postponement of election

likely if COVID-19 outbreak worsens

19 March 2020 01:38 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • The countries around the globe resort to action after action in  succession to prevent community spread of the disease that has already  claimed 8000 lives around the globe

  • The community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with  the virus but cannot specifically trace the source of infection

Coronavirus or COVID-19 , as defined by the World Health Organisation, is taking its toll on the entire world by the day. The countries around the globe resort to action after action in succession to prevent community spread of the disease that has already claimed 8000 lives around the globe. Sri Lanka is fighting the disease with a host of measures such as the adoption of quarantine measures for possible patients, the closure of the airport for international arrivals, school closure and the declaration of public holidays.   


These are steps taken to contain the community spread of the disease. The community spread occurs when the individuals have been infected with the virus but cannot specifically trace the source of infection. In most cases, the source has been identified in Sri Lanka. So, it is quite possible for the government authorities to design plans to prevent further spread. However, if the number increases making it difficult for the identification of the source of infection in individual cases, the government will be compelled to move for drastic steps such as shutdown of areas . The imposition of police curfew in the Puttalam district and Kochchikade is a step in this direction. 

 
The lock-down of the country does not seem to be the intention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In his televised address to the nation, he said one should not shy away from the challenge . Instead, he said the country should stand up to the challenge and overcome it without causing any major disruption to public life. Yet, he will not have any choice if the situation spins out of control.   


The disease outbreak is taking place when the general elections have been declared . From the government’s point of view , it is important to have the elections concluded as planned . The government currently operates on allocations made under the Vote on Account for the first quarter of this year. For it to forge ahead with key economic decisions, a fully-fledged budget has to be passed in Parliament. So, the government is keen to have the elections in the hope that it will be able to clinch up a clear majority to reign in parliamentary affairs.   


The main opposition, the beleaguered after the defeat at the presidential elections and the subsequent break -up , thinks otherwise. It is keen to see that the elections are postponed under the present circumstances. Nominations for the elections will close today . Afterwards, the Election Commission will have the authority to decide on the postponement of the elections if the need arises under the present developing circumstances.   

The lock-down of the country does not seem to be the intention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.  In his televised address to the nation, he said one should not shy away  from the challenge . Instead, he said the country should stand up to  the challenge and overcome it without causing any major disruption to  public life


As of yesterday morning, 43 patients had tested positive for COVID- 19. If the number escalates, it will warrant more stringent action to prevent further rise . Public gatherings are a normal occurrence during elections. A ban on such events is a must for the containment of the disease spreading. Electioneering is challenging without public meetings.   


Therefore, a decision on the postponement of the disease is dependent how the disaster situation unfolds within the next few days. If there is a downward trend in the cases, the election authorities will proceed with the process. Postponement of the elections is possible if the situation worsens within the next few days. 

 
Meanwhile, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections(PAFFREL), in a statement put out on Tuesday, asked for the postponement of the elections on account of the emergency situation in the country. Such a request from PAFFREL which is the largest poll watch group will definitely facilitate the Election Commission in taking a decision in this regard.   


The main parties have finalised their nomination papers at the moment to be handed over to the district returning officers . Today is the last day for tendering nomination lists. The parties are undergoing a complicated task in working out lists because of tussle among prospective candidates for slots .   

SLPP / SLFP wrangling over slots for nomination   


Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna(SLPP) was yet to iron out differences with Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) yesterday for slots in their nomination lists yesterday. The two parties will contest the polls as an alliance. In the Kurunegala district, SLFP General Secretary MP Dayasiri Jayasekara insisted on three slots for SLFP members. However, he compromised for two slots after much wrangling with the SLPP. In fact, squabbling for nomination led to the intervention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resolve some outstanding issues. The President had a special discussion with SLPP national organiser and chief strategist Basil Rajapaksa on Tuesday. It happened after the SLFP brought the matter to the notice of the President. 

 
Beside, the SLFP did not receive the number of slots sought by it from the Kalutara district list. Therefore, it decided to field a separate list for the elections. Also, the SLFP will contest alone in Nuwara-Eliya and Jaffna. In the Wanni district, the SLFP will contest together with the SLPP under the lotus bud symbol. Unlike in other districts where it contests with the SLPP, the SLFP will lead the nomination list in the Wanni district.   


The SLPP stalwarts engaged in the finalisation of the nomination lists yesterday with precautions to prevent them being contaminated by the coronavirus. They all were wearing face masks. Also, hand sanitiser was made available at Nelum Mawatha office.   

SJB in dilemma in Kandy over Mayantha’s decision to contest   


Most of the MPs of the United National Party(UNP) will contest the polls under the telephone receiver symbol of Samagi Jana Balawegaya(SJB). Its Kandy district leaders were in a dilemma yesterday after former MP Mayantha Dissanayake expressed interest in contesting. Initially, he had informed that he would not contest either under the elephant symbol or the telephone symbol. So, the SJB prepared the Kandy district nomination list excluding him. However, he had a change of mind later and indicated interest in contesting. Now, the Kandy district leaders of the SJB are at a loss being unable to figure out the person to be omitted from the list to accommodate Mr. Dissanayake.   


The SJB is bound to face fresh hurdles in the run up to the elections because the UNP is planning to challenge its legality . Also, the UNP will initiate fresh action against its members who teamed up with the SJB .   


Finalisation of nomination lists will end internal quarrels of the political parties. But, the postponement of the election will depend on how the emergency crisis worsens in the days to come.     

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