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EC seeks Rs 30 bn for polls next year

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Election Commission (EC) has asked the Treasury for Rs. 30 billion for elections in 2024, Commissioner General of Elections (CGE), Saman Sri Ratnayake says.However, the Constitutional Council (CC) had not yet appointed all members to the Elections Commission, Ratnayake said.

According to the CGE, only four out of five members have been appointed to the EC so far.Given that the quorum was only three, the commissioners were carrying out their duties and functions, Ratnayake said, adding that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating existing election laws and regulations and recommending changes had not yet approached the EC for discussions. President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed the commission.

Ratnayake added that a few years before the Commission had sought public opinion on changes to the election laws.

“We believe that deposits should be increased for those contesting presidential, general and provincial council elections. We have proposed this. Steps are being taken to draft a law.” he said.

A candidate from a political party contesting for a provincial council does not need to place a deposit, he said. The Commission has suggested that such a candidate place a deposit of 10,000 rupees that will be repaid and a 1,000 rupee deposit that will not be rebated.

“We also suggested the same for a candidate from a political party contesting the general elections. We believe that a person contesting the presidential election must make a deposit of 2.6 million rupees. 2.5 million rupees of the deposit will be repaid following the election. We also suggested that an independent

candidate must place a deposit of 3.1 million rupees, out of which 3 million rupees will be returned.”

Thirty five candidates contested the 2019 presidential election. In 2015, there were 19 candidates, Ratnayake said.

“Most people don’t understand how the number of candidates affects our expenses. The length of the ballot paper is determined by the number of candidates, which in turn determines how many ballot papers can be accommodated in a ballot box. The number of ballot boxes we need determine the size of the polling centre. It also determines what kind of a vehicle is needed to transport ballot boxes to a polling centre. We also need to treat all candidates equally, which means more staff. Spending a lot wouldn’t matter if there was real competition among these candidates, but we all know that there are only a handful of real players involved,” he said.

The Commissioner General of Elections added that they have asked the Treasury to allocate funding to hold a presidential, provincial, and local government elections in 2024.

“There are no scheduled elections in Sri Lanka. Provincial councils have not been held for years, but those in power can hold them anytime they want. So in the past few years, when a Budget is being prepared, and we are asked by the Treasury to provide an estimate, we always ask for funding to hold the provincial elections. We have asked for 30 billion rupees for these elections. We have also told the Treasury that a general election will cost 11 billion rupees. If the President dissolves Parliament, he is anyway bound by the Constitution to provide us with money,” he said.



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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