PM proposes meeting of party leaders on delayed LG polls

by Saman Indrajith

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that he would discuss the proposed election reforms with all party leaders and inform the Cabinet of their position within one week.

The Prime Minister said so in response to a query raised by MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena. The latter also asked the government to issue a notice calling upon the Election Commission to hold the local government polls without further delay.

MP Gunawardena: Around 15 million people in all provinces have been deprived of their franchise. They have not been allowed to elect about 6,000 representatives to local government bodies. Local Government Minister three months back assured this House that the government would take actions necessary to hold the local government polls. Why doesn’t the government direct the Elections Commission to hold the much-delayed polls. Two years have lapsed without a single election.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: The President, too, has stated that the elections should be held without delay. We have taken necessary action in this regard. We printed relevant instructions on Feb. 17. Yet there is no clear agreement among party leaders with regard to the demarcation of electoral wards. The relevant reforms needed to be included in Acts of municipal councils, urban councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas. The party leaders demanded that there be an agreement on the electoral system. The decision has to be made with the concurrence of the party leaders. The government has done its part. We have to hold provincial council elections as well. I propose that party leaders meet within this week to finalise this.

MP Gunawardena: These reforms have been prepared with the consent of party leaders so why should another meeting be held?

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: If there is no agreement, I can report that, too.

MP Gunawardena: What would you say to our demand that the Election Commission’s Chairman be instructed to hold polls. Party leaders cannot decide what to do on that score. The process should be governed by the existing laws.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: There are 50 some reforms and amendments. The party leaders can express their positions thereon. We have not yet made a final decision. We cannot go ahead without amending the election laws. Once the party leaders’ positions are announced I will convey it to the Cabinet.

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