The much-anticipated 2020 general election has been postponed and it is believed that the next date for the election could be pushed back to either late May or early June.
However, the Election Commission (EC) after taking into consideration the situation in the country as well as the handling of Covid-19, is expected to announce its decision on Wednesday (25).
Calls were made from all corners of the country calling on the President and Government to announce the postponement of the general election before the conclusion of the handing over of nominations last Thursday (19).
On Monday (16) evening, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had discussed with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa about the possibility of convening an all-party meeting to discuss postponing the general election.
The Prime Minister had however said that he would consider convening such a meeting after nominations.
While Opposition members called on the President to announce the postponement of the general election until the Covid-19 threat
was overcome by the country, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was left to weigh the political pros and cons of such a move.
A postponement of the election by the President without concluding the nominations process would have meant him recalling the Gazette Notification announcing the dissolution of Parliament and call for the reconvening of the eighth Parliament. The Government, which is a minority administration at present, was not very comfortable doing so.
The Government believed that the Opposition would pose a stumbling block to its path and decided that the nomination period should conclude without any move to postpone the elections.
President Rajapaksa left it to the EC to make the announcement of the postponement of elections after the conclusion of nominations.
After concluding nominations last Thursday, the EC Chairman announced the general election could not be held on 25 April as previously scheduled and that it would have to be postponed. The date he said would be announced later on.
With elections pending and the postponement of polls, it is now the President who has carte blanche to make the necessary administrative calls with the assistance of the Prime Minister and the caretaker Government.
It is in this backdrop that United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a statement to the media of a constitutional stumbling block the President could face after 30 April, given the postponement of the elections.
In the statement issued on Friday (20), Wickremesinghe noted that the Government does not seem to be paying adequate attention to the financial crisis that has fallen before the nation.
According to Wickremesinghe, the President would cease to hold the power of utilising monies from the Consolidated Fund. “The Government can utilise monies from the Consolidated Fund according to guidelines stipulated by Parliament. Parliament has approved a vote on account (VoA) that would assist the financial transactions from 1 January 2020 till 30 April 2020,”
Wickremesinghe had noted.
Therefore, there will not be any obstacle in spending state funds till 30 April 2020. Even during this period, the President could not utilise funds outside the VoA.
Clause 150 (3) of the Constitution has outlined the power vested with the President to utilise the Consolidated Fund at a time when Parliament was dissolved.
Clause 150 of the Constitution explains how withdrawals of sums are made from the Consolidated Fund and they are as follows:Clause 150 (1) states: “Save as otherwise expressly provided in paragraphs (3) and (4) of this Article, no sum shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except under the authority of a warrant under the hand of the Minister in Charge of the subject of Finance.”
150 (2) notes: “No such warrant shall be issued unless the sum has by resolution of Parliament or by any law been granted for specified public services for the financial year during which the withdrawal is to take place or is otherwise lawfully charged, on the Consolidated Fund.”
150 (3) outlines: “Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provision, authorise the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.”
Further, 150 (4) notes: “Where the President dissolves Parliament and fixes a date or dates for a general election the President may, unless Parliament has already made provision in that behalf, authorise the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may, after consultation with the Commissioner of Elections, consider necessary for such elections.”
Wickremesinghe had pointed out that with Parliament dissolved and a date for holding parliamentary elections still unknown, the country would head for a financial crisis with the Government being unable to gain access to public funds after 30 April 2020 until the next Parliament convenes.
According to Wickremesinghe, the Government will face obstacles in meeting public sector salaries as well as funding emergency expenditure in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
He had added that it was for this reason that the Opposition had pushed for a meeting of all parties in order to formulate a joint mechanism to address the current situation.
However, at the time of concluding this column, the Government had not responded to Wickremesinghe’s statement. If not for the issues faced by the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the political arena would have been in full swing after nominations concluded last week.
However, the upcoming general election would prove to be a decisive one that would play a role in the future stability of the respective parties.
The split in the UNP between Party Leader Wickremesinghe and his loyalists as well as the supporters led by UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa was cemented last week with the Premadasa-led Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) handing nominations to contest the general election separately.
Leading up to the conclusion of nominations, there was speculation and belief amongst the UNP membership that the party would not split and all factions would contest on a common platform.
However, all that has now been laid to rest with the Wickremesinghe-led UNP and Premadasa-led SJB going their separate ways.
However, Wickremesinghe loyalists earlier said that in the event Premadasa and the SJB submit nomination papers separately, they would lose their party posts and memberships.
According to the UNP, the SJB Constitution does not allow its members to hold membership of another political party.
Nevertheless, given the statements issued by the EC, it is evident that the SJB had been registered as a political party.
In such a scenario, Premadasa and his loyalists would automatically lose their UNP membership since the UNP Constitution also does not permit a member of another political party to hold UNP membership.
The developments in the next few weeks would be interesting to watch given that the UNP’s decisions, especially on sacking Premadasa and his loyalists, could further weaken the party’s standing.
However, all these issues are on the backburner at the moment due to the common battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
SLFP blues continue
On the other hand, the issues faced by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by former President Maithripala Sirisena are far from over. The war between the SLFP and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) seems to continue and it has converted into a cold war after the conclusion of nominations last week.
Even the day before nominations ended, on Wednesday (18), the crisis within the SLFP over signing the nomination papers prepared by the SLPP continued.
With several senior SLFPers including party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara, National Organiser Duminda Dissanayake,and Treasurer Lasantha Alagiyawanna refusing to sign the nomination papers for the Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, and Gampaha Districts, the SLPP leaders were engaged in last-minute discussions to reach a compromise on the matter.
The SLFP leaders meanwhile claimed that they would contest separately under the SLFP’s “hand” symbol in several districts. Dissanayake, who went to the Nelum Mawatha office of the SLPP last Tuesday (17), refused to sign the nomination papers and explained the reasons for his objections to SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam.
Dissanayake asked Kariyawasam as to why the SLPP had gone back on the agreement signed with the SLFP and reduced the number of slots to be assigned to the SLFP as per the agreements signed in the formation of a political alliance in the run-up to the presidential election last year.
Kariyawasam, responding to Dissanayake’s questions, said that the SLPP leaders had decided on the quotas allocated to the political parties in the nomination lists after analysing the votes polled by the respective parties at the last local government elections.
Dissanayake however said that the SLFP was entitled to four slots in the Anuradhapura nomination list and that he could therefore not accept the two slots that have been assigned to the SLFP in the list.
The SLFP National Organiser observed that he would not sign the SLPP nomination list for the Anuradhapura District and would consider contesting separately under the SLFP if the SLPP leaders could not, at the very least, assign another slot in the list for the SLFP.
Dissanayake demanded at least three slots for the SLFP in the final nomination list for Anuradhapura. However, Kariyawasam responded by saying he was unable to give an answer to Dissanayake’s request since it was up to the party hierarchy to make a final call on the matter.
A photographer then walked into the office to take a photograph of Dissanayake signing the nomination papers. Smiling at the photographer, Dissanayake said there was no reason to take photographs since he would not be signing the nomination papers and walked out of the SLPP head office.
The SLPP earlier announced that the party’s list of 262 candidates contesting the upcoming general election and the 29 members of the National List of the SLPP had been divided according to percentages amongst the political parties contesting under the alliance.
Accordingly, the SLPP had been assigned close to 50% of the slots in the lists while the SLFP had been assigned close to 25%. The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) had been assigned close to 8% and close to 5% was given to the Ceylon Workers’Congress (CWC).
Also, the Communist Party, Deshavimukthi People’s Party, and national organisations like Viyathmaga among others had been assigned candidates in the lists prepared by the SLPP.
The SLFP’s 15-member politburo met on Tuesday (17) evening at the SLFP headquarters on Darley Road in Colombo to discuss the nomination list crisis in the SLFP-SLPP alliance.
At the meeting, both Jayasekara and Dissanayake proposed that the SLFP contest separately under the “hand” symbol in several districts.
The issue was finally resolved with the intervention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The meeting of the politburo was unable to reach a final decision since SLFP Leader former President Sirisena had already signed the nomination papers to contest under the SLPP and the “flower bud” symbol at the upcoming general election.
Sirisena had said at the meeting that he did not have an issue in contesting under the SLPP in the Polonnaruwa District.
However, it was evident that he was not too keen to see the likes of Jayasekara and Dissanayake contesting the election under the SLFP’s “hand” symbol as it would eventually lead to issues of legitimacy of the party leadership.
In such a scenario, it would indeed be strange to see the party leader contesting the general election under a symbol of a different party while several other seniors contest under the symbol of their original party.
It is in this backdrop that President Rajapaksa had intervened and informed Sirisena that the SLPP was agreeable to accommodate several more SLFPers in the nomination lists.
The President had said that he had managed to get SLPP theoretician Basil Rajapaksa to agree to grant an additional slot for the SLFP in the Anuradhapura, Gampaha, and Colombo Districts. However, the President had added that Basil had refused to allocate an additional slot for the SLFP in the Kurunegala District.
Hearing this, Jayasekara had reiterated that he would be compelled to contest separately under the SLFP if he was not allocated an additional slot in the Kurunegala District.
Nevertheless, former Kurunegala District MP Shantha Bandara had already signed the nomination lists under the SLPP.
Eating humble pie Following the assurance given by the President, SLFP National Organiser Dissanayake, and former MP Weerakumara Dissanayake agreed to sign the nomination list prepared by the SLPP since SLFP senior and former Minister Tissa Karaliyedda’s name was also added to the new list.
However, the SLPP at the eleventh hour had decided not to allocate an additional seat each for the SLFP in the Colombo and Gampaha Districts. The SLFP, believing the assurance of the SLPP, had prepared to sign the nomination papers when they found that the promised allocation of an additional slot for some districts had not been granted. The time constraints at the time however, resulted in former MP Thilanga Sumathipala and former Kotte Mayor Janaka Ranawaka signing the nomination papers to
contest from the Colombo District.
Alagiyawanna also had to sign the nomination list for the Gampaha District. Although two slots were promised to the SLPP in the Gampaha District, the final outcome was only one slot.
The SLFP however on Tuesday prepared separate nomination lists for the Nuwara Eliya, Kalutara, and Jaffna Districts according to an agreement reached earlier in the week between the SLFP and SLPP.
Roshan Gunawardena will lead the SLFP in the Nuwara Eliya District, Sumith Lal Mendis will lead the Kalutara District team, and Angajan Ramanathan will lead the SLFP in Jaffna.
The SLFP candidates in the Wanni District will be contesting under the “flower bud” symbol of the SLPP.
As for the Kurunegala District list, despite continuous demands by the SLFP to allocate three slots in the list, the SLPP had only given two slots – Jayasekara and Shantha Bandara.
More issues with lists
The SLPP’s headaches over nominations lists were not limited only to the SLFP. Many other party supporters, especially civil activists, were seen expressing their disappointment at the final nomination lists due to the exclusion of some civil activists who had supported the SLPP during the past few elections.
However, it is learnt that Dr. Charitha Herath, who engaged in campaigning work for the general election in the Kurunegala District, had been included in the SLPP’s National List.
National Lotteries Board (NLB) Chairman Lalith Piyum Perera, who was hopeful of contesting from the SLPP in the Colombo District, did not receive nominations as expected.
Also, North Western Province Governor A.J.M. Muzammil, who was looking at entering the next Parliament either by contesting or through the SLPP National List, had been excluded from both lists. Muzammil meanwhile is to continue serving in his post as the North Western Province Governor.
Former Minister Faiszer Musthapha, who contested from the SLFP in the Colombo District at the 2015 general election, will not be contesting at this year’s election and has also not been included in the SLPP National List. The National List also posed a problem for the SLFP.
The SLFP had sought four slots in the National List, but was granted only two.The four names proposed by the party were Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, Faiszer Musthapha PC, Suren Raghavan, and Bandula Wellala.
However, the SLPP had only included the names of Piyadasa and Raghavan in its National List.Musthapha and Piyadasa were to be the SLFP nominees to be included in the SLPP National List if it was to choose only two members.
In this backdrop, the exclusion of Musthapha’s name from the National List had resulted in Musthapha expressing displeasure at the manner in which the SLFP had handled the whole issue of candidates and national lists.
In and out of the race
Four former MPs who had seats in the eighth Parliament have been excluded from both the respective district candidates’ lists as well as the parties’ national lists.
Former Speaker Jayasuriya is one such politician, who has decided to stay out of the political circles following the split in the UNP. The split in the UNP and the formation of the Premadasa-led SJB has resulted in a disgruntled Jayasuriya opting to stay away from the political limelight for a while. Jayasuriya tried on many occasions to mediate and bring together the Wickremesinghe and Premadasa factions, but to no avail. Finally, he had decided to stay on the sidelines and watch the UNP and SJB go at each other.
UNP Leader Wickremesinghe’s confidante, former Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, who was looking at contesting this general election from the Colombo District, has not received nominations owing to objections raised by party seniors.
Ratnayaka, who contested the previous general election from the Matara District representing the Deniyaya electorate, first opted to contest this year’s election from the Colombo District. He later requested to be accommodated in the UNP’s National List.
However, Ratnayaka’s name has not been included in either of the lists.
Ratnayaka has now said that he would continue to engage in party politics by assisting the Party Leader with his campaign. Also, former Minister S.B. Navinna, who entered the last Parliament through the United National Front (UNF) and later joined the SLPP, has not received nominations from the SLPP’s Kurunegala District list. His name has also not been included in the SLPP National List.
Former UNF MP Wasantha Senanayake, who entered Parliament from the Polonnaruwa District, has also not figured in the lists of contesting candidates as well as the national lists. Senanayake in 2019 joined the then “Joint Opposition” in Parliament, led by then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. He later extended his support to the SLPP. However, Senanayake’s name has not figured in the general election this time around.
However, former Minister Mervyn Silva, who has been off the political stage for a few years, has made a comeback and is to contest from the UNP in the Anuradhapura District.
Meanwhile, Former Western Province Governor Azath Salley has joined forces with Premadasa’s SJB and has been included in its National List as well.
As for the SLFP, former Galle District MP Nishantha Muthuhettigamage is out of the general election race as he was not granted nominations from the SLPP.
Meanwhile, several nominations lists of the Ape Jana Bala Party headed by the former General Secretary of the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera were rejected last Thursday (19).
Several leading Buddhist monks as well as senior SLFP members who were not given nominations under the SLFP-SLPP alliance had also come forward to contest under the Ape Jana Bala Party.
However, the party’s nominations lists for the Colombo, Kurunegala, and Monaragala Districts were rejected by the EC last Thursday.
Accordingly, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana Thera, Ven. Madille Pannaloka Thera, Ven. Ananda Sagara Thera, Gamini Thilakasiri, and Prasanna Solangaarachchi lost their nominations.
Senior SLFPer Jeevan Kumaratunga, who also stated recently he would be contesting under the Ape Jana Bala Party, had withdrawn his name at the eleventh hour on Wednesday (18) night.
The key parties contesting the upcoming general election, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), United National Party (UNP), Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), and National People’s Power (NPP) submitted their respective national lists last week.
All parties seemed to have given prominence to the inclusion of intellectuals and professionals, among others in
Following are the national lists of the SLPP, UNP, SJB, and NPP:
1. Prof. G. L. Peiris
2. Mohamed Ali Sabry
3. Gevindu Kumaratunga
4. Mapa Mudiyanselage Thanuja Dhammika Ratmale
5. Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa
6. Prof. Tissa Vitharana
7. Perumal Rajadurai
8. Yadamini Gunawardena
9. Ajith Nivard Cabraal
10. Manjula Wijekoon Dissanayake
11. Mohammed Faleel Marjan Asmi
12. Nimal R. Ranawaka
13. Dharmasena Kalansuriya
14. Suren Raghavan
15. Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage Dilshan
16. Charitha Herath
17. Doraisamy Raja
18. Upul Nishantha
19. Dr. G. Weerasinghe
20. Dr. Sarojani Jayalath
21. Wimal Geeganage
22. Jayantha Weerasinghe
23. Seetha Kumari Arambepola
24. Walgama Hewamaluwage Piyadasa
25. Prof. Ranjith Bandara
26. Tiran Alles
27. Mohammed Muzammil
28. Ketagoda Gamage Jayantha Perera
29. Sagara Kariyawasam
1. John Amaratunga
2. Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku
3. Prof. Ashu Marasinghe
4. Thilak Marapana PC
5. Daya Pelpola PC
6. Ronald Perera PC
7. Nissanka Nanayakkara PC
8. Saman Rathnapriya
9. Sudath Chandrasekera
10. Felix Perera
11. Manoj Chaminda Cooray
12. Achini Lokubandara
13. Prasanna Shamal Senarath
14. Abdul Sattar Mohammed Misbah
15. Lasantha Gunawardena
16. Prof. Hewa Waduge Cyril
17. Winston Pathiraja
18. Sunil De Silva
19. Jeyaraj Chandrasekera
20. S.D. Nelson Ariyawansa
21. N. Vishnukanthan
22. Prof. M.O.A. De Zoysa
23. Prof. M.D. Prishantha Gunawardena
24. Dr. Marina Abdeen
25. Prof. Kennedy Gunawardena
26. Rohitha Bogollagama
27. Prof. Prashantha Perera
28. Dr. Sirima Siri Hapuarachchi
1. Attanayake Mudiyanselage Kudabanda Tissa Attanayake
2. Nalaka Jude Harin Fernando
3. Imthiaz Bakeer Markar
4. Mark Suren Fernando
5. Anuruddha Pradeep Karnasuriya
6. Hettiarachchige Subhash Ravi Jayawardena
7. Kariyapperuma Atukoralage Don Priyantha Sisira Kumara Kariyapperuma
8. Gunarathna Wanninayake
9. Mohammed Nizam Kariapper
10. Mayantha Yaswanth Dissanayake
11. Dr. Mahim Pradeep Mendis
12. Shiral Virantha Lakthilaka
13. Meegodage Cyril Joseph Maithri Perera
14. Antony Lawrence
15. Kalan Andi Thevar Thurusamy
16. Siyyad Amjad Zahir Mowlana
17. Masihudeen Naimullah
18. Deetha Sriyani Pathmakulasuriya
19. Diana Gamage
20. Inoka Harshani Ratnasuriya Keerthinanda
21. Pitiye Gedara Chameera Iroshana Perera
22. Sarath Earl Wickremasinghe Gunasekera
23. Maylvaganam Thilakarajah
24. Mohammed Azath Sanoon Salley
25. Abdul Latheef Muhammad Sabeel
26. Abdul Rahman Mansoor
27. Hussain Ahamed Bahila
28. Eran Wickramaratne
29. Ratnayake Mudiyanselage Ranjith Madduma Bandara
1. Bimal Rathnayake
2. Prof. Chandana Abeyratne
3. Jinadasa Kithulegoda
4. Lal Wijenayake
5. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya
6. Upul Kumarapperuma
7. Ashoka Peiris
8. Premalal Abeysinghe Gunasekera
9. Dr. Anil Jayantha Fernando
10. Prof. Kumar David
11. Prof. Vijaya Kumar
12. Dr. Michael Fernando
13. Jayathilaka Kammallaweera
14. Nadeeka Guruge
15. Keerthi Welisarage
16. Kumara Jayakody
17. Dr. Mohammed Rizvi Salih
18. Selliah Sivaloganathan JP
19. Hiniduma Sunil Senevi
20. Dr. Krishantha Abeysekera
21. Prof. Jinasena Hewage
22. Prof. Premadasa Jayakody
23. Mohammed Mulafer Mohammad Muneer
24. Prof. Susiripala Manawadu
25. Chamila Thushari
26. Anura Hettigoda
27. Deepani Silva
28. Tuan K. Azhur
29. Jagath Manuwarna
Source:The Sunday Morning