Postponing the elections- Department of Elections ‘hunting with the hounds’

by Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon

(February 22, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) is reminded of the idiom running with the hare and hunting with the hounds at the Department of Elections’ decision to postpone elections of 60 local government bodies.

The decision taken by the Department is a violation of article 262 of the Local Government Elections Act and CaFFE is surprised at this because in the past elections were not postponed just because a political party/independent group filed a court case about an election related matter. In addition the Commissioner of Elections has taken back the powers bestowed upon districts level officers from the Local Government Elections Act.

After considering various petitions the court has postponed the elections of three local government bodies and so far has expressed no opinion/given a verdict regarding the others. Therefore it is surprising that the Department of Elections seem to have ‘foreseen’ the court rulings. We believe that many will perceive this as a ‘politically influenced action’ and will shake the people’s faith in elections and will have an adverse effect on the free and fair nature of the elections.

The biggest fear we have is that the decision taken by the Commissioner of Elections might have an effect on the court’s final decision regarding election petitions. It is evident that Assistant Commissioners and District Officers’ decision to reject the nomination papers was not arbitrary and they have acted according to the provisions of the Local Government Elections Act. Therefore postponing the elections even before a court order is surprising and unacceptable.

History has shown us, over and over again, that holding elections on a staggering basis is an invitation to heightened election law violations. It will also create an uneven playing filed since the party in power is given the chance to focus all its/state’s resources into a limited area.

It is obvious that the Department’s action will lead to a repeat performance of what we saw during the Provincial Council election which was held on a staggering basis, and we must note that election law violations of the coming elections have been very high compared to previous election in 2006.

CaFFE declares that the Department should refrain from taking action which will affect the free and fair nature of elections and shake the people’s faith in the Department.

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