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EC Chief says not informed of LG polls postponement

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SLPP Gen. Secy: Cabinet approval awaited; PAFFREL says move disastrous

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission Chairman Nimal Punchihewa, yesterday (24) said that in spite of recent media reports as regards the controversial government decision to put off scheduled Local Government polls, the EC hadn’t been informed so far.

Attorney-at-law Punchihewa said so in response to The Island query whether the EC had suspended ongoing preparations for LG polls scheduled to be conducted before 20 March, 2022.

The EC requires about four months to prepare for LG polls, the Elections Chief said, adding that he recently briefed the Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms chaired by Chief Government

Whip Dinesh Gunawardena, MP, regarding their preparations for the forthcoming polls.

The EC consists of Nimal G. Punchihewa, S.B. Divaratne, M.M. Mohamad, K.P.P. Pathirana and Ms. P.S.M. Charles.

The EC Chairman acknowledged that he perused statements issued by Provincial Council and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe regarding the polls postponement. However, the relevant State Ministry or the cabinet of ministers hadn’t so far informed the EC of its decision.

Last Local Government polls were conducted on Feb 10, 2018. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna bagged the vast majority of 341 Local Government bodies at that election. Local Government polls are held every four years.

SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, yesterday told The Island that the relevant cabinet paper had been submitted to the cabinet of ministers. Once approved, the EC would be informed, Attorney-at-Law Kariyawasam said.

Punchihewa said that the government enjoyed the constitutional power to put off Local Government polls up to one year. Responding to another query, the former member of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission said that the law permitted the government to postpone Local Government elections.

State Minister Ranasinghe is on record as having said that the growing threat posed by new Covid-19 variant omicron compelled the government to postpone scheduled elections.

Polls monitoring body PAFFREL said that whatever the reasons attributed to the polls postponement it was clear political reasons prompted the government decision. Executive Director, PAFFREL, Rohana Hettiarachchi said that previous administrations, including yahapalana resorted to postponement of elections. Hettiarachchi strongly advised against putting off elections as the country celebrated 90 years of franchise. Such strategies were nothing but an affront to the voting public, Hettiarachchi said, drawing the attention of the government to the importance of knowing public reaction to its policies. The failure to do so would be catastrophic, Hettiarachchi said, recalling how previous postponement of elections destabilized the country.

Hettiarachchi urged the government to face the scheduled elections or face the consequences.

The prominent civil society activist said that postponement of elections at any level would never give an advantage to the party in power.

Political sources said that the SLPP proposal to put off polls hadn’t been discussed among constituent members of the ruling coalition. Sources said that over two years after the last presidential election in Nov 2019 the coalition was yet to set up a mechanism to discuss policy matters and the ongoing dispute between the SLPP and a section of the constituents further deteriorated the situation.

Former Communist Party General Secretary Dew Gunasekera said that the move to put off Local Government polls should be examined against the backdrop of a spate of contentious issues ranging from fertilizer fiasco to Yugadanavi deal. The ex-minister said that the situation was extremely critical particularly due to the unprecedented crisis in debt servicing. The political environment underwent total transformation over the past 18 months, the veteran politician said, asserting that some might have felt election at any level would be disadvantageous to the ruling party.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country

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By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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