Two FRs from PAFFREL over delays in polls

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), a polls monitor, will file two Fundamental Rights (FR) petitions at the Supreme Court (SC) against the relevant authorities for not holding the Provincial Council (PC) elections, and for not declaring the Local Government (LG) election within the required timeframe.

Speaking to The Morning on Tuesday (29), PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi noted that the fundamental rights of the people are being infringed when both the said elections are not held or declared within the required time period.

“When it comes to the LG election, it seems like it will not be declared on time, while the PC elections have not been held for the past three years now. Therefore, we have decided to take legal action within the next two weeks,” he added.

He further noted that even though the United National Front-led “yahapalana” (good governance) Government initially brought about an amendment on the women’s quota for nomination with a two-page document, when the Bill reached the second reading stage, it had increased up to 32 pages, with a completely new electoral system that the Delimitation Commission had to complete, which, however, it did not. Even the relevant Minister at that time did not agree with these delimitation-based amendments.

“The current Government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is the third government that came to power after the ‘yahapalana’ Government. So far, all of the politicians have failed to proceed with the PC elections. They had to complete the delimitation and reverse the previous electoral system. That is why we have decided to file a FR petition for the PCs elections as well. There is evidently no preparation and intention to hold elections. Some PCs’ terms expired five years ago, while others expired three years ago. There are no elected representatives; they are operated by the President’s representatives,” he added.

Meanwhile, PAFFREL wrote to the Election Commission (EC) on Monday (28 November) claiming that it is unnecessary to seek the Attorney General’s (AG) opinion with regard to whether the EC can declare the conduct of the LG poll following the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which holds that the EC should be reconstituted, but also provides for transitional provisions to be operative in the interim period, and pointed out that EC Chairmen in the past have held elections in such interim and transitional periods. Hettiarachchi queried as to why incumbent EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa cannot hold elections when former EC Chairmen Dayananda Dissanayake and Mahinda Deshapriya had held major elections in the past during such periods.

Also, the EC stated on Tuesday that while it had received the legal advice sought from the AG’s Department on whether it has the power to declare the LG election following the adoption of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, it is however not in a position to reveal the advice received, noting that a decision will be taken following internal discussions. Speaking to The Morning, Punchihewa emphasised that although the EC had sought advice from the AG’s Department, the advice received cannot be revealed even under the Right to Information Act, while adding that the EC would hold internal discussions to make the relevant decisions.

He also told The Morning earlier that a declaration regarding the date of the LG election will be made by the EC, in early next year (2023). He noted: “Our expectation is to hold the LG election before 20 March 2023.”