Holding of parliamentary polls
- EC is required to hold General election 2020, before June 2 under the provisions of the Constitution
By Sandun A. Jayasekera
The Elections Commission (EC) is scheduled to meet top health officials and the top brass of the Sri Lanka Army and the Police today to discuss the possibility of holding the Parliamentary polls within the statutory time frame.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved Parliament three months prematurely on March 2 and the Elections Commission concluded accepting nominations on March 19 and fixed elections for April 25.
But considering the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Elections Commission postponed the polls under clause 24 – 3 of the Parliament Elections Act no. 1 of 1981.
Under the same law, if and when the elections are held after the postponement, it has to be held after 14 days from the day of postponement and before the lapse of three months. As such, the EC is required to hold General election 2020, before June 2 under the provisions of the Constitution.
The Daily Mirror learns that Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Police Chief, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Consultant Epidemiologist Dr. Paba Palihawadana are among those invited by the EC. However, there was no information that the political parties have been invited by the EC despite the fact that they are the main stakeholders to the elections and also the JVP’s request last week to the EC to give an opportunity to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in a statement said article 70 (5) (a) of the Constitution requires that upon the dissolution of Parliament, the new Parliament shall be summoned to meet on a date not later than three months after the date of the proclamation that dissolved Parliament, which must happen by June 2.
On March 31, April 01 and April 06, letters were exchanged between the Election Commission and the Secretary to the President indicating that: It is the position of the Election Commission that the prevailing situation and logistical constraints prohibit parliamentary elections from being held in time for the new Parliament to be summoned to meet by June 02.
The government is of the view that there is not necessarily any impediment to holding parliamentary elections on or before May 28.
Every country in the world is putting political differences aside and uniting to face this threat. Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences, Mr Jayasuriya stressed.
“It is my opinion that the government and opposition must engage with the Election Commission and with each other urgently and in good faith. If there are any precautions or new laws that the Commission determines would allow it to safely hold elections in time, these must be explored immediately.
In the event holding elections in time is not possible, a constitutional crisis must be avoided at all costs. Such a crisis entails the risk of delegitimising and destabilising our country and could gravely impact Sri Lanka’s prospects of obtaining economic relief,” he said.
In the interest of the nation, I appeal to the government, the opposition, and other stakeholders to set aside their political differences and to take urgent and meaningful steps to avoid an unnecessary third crisis for our country appealed Mr Jayasuriya.