Conflicts & War

Delay in local elections attracts fresh criticism in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Feb 21 (EFE).- The lack of funds to organize local elections in Sri Lanka, the first polls since the deep economic crisis began, led to staunch criticism of the Government on Tuesday while it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The opposition staged a protest at the Parliament, demanding the government to announce the elections, scheduled for Mar.9, which could be postponed due to the lingering economic crisis.

“@ParliamentLK adjourned after entire opposition protested inside the chamber against the decision of #SriLanka President @RW_UNP to do away with local government elections,” tweeted legislator Harsha de Silva.

The opposition criticism comes after the Election Commission (EC) informed the Supreme Court this week that the government has not released enough funds to conduct the election.

The distribution of ballots for postal voting was already postponed last week due to a lack of liquidity to carry out the expenses of the island’s elections, a measure that raised concern among opposition parties and citizens.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Monday at a press conference that his priority was to solve the prevailing current economic crisis, thus justifying the delay in payments to the Electoral Commission and the possibility of delaying the elections.

Rohana Hettiarachchi, the executive director of poll monitor People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections, in an interaction with EFE, stressed that it was crucial to avoid postponement of the elections even by a day.

“It is the duty of the government to release the necessary funds to the EC. Based on the EC’s request, the parliament has already allocated 10 billion rupees (around $27 million) to hold the elections,” Hettiarachchi said.

In this regard, he said Wickremesinghe was obliged to release the funds previously allocated to the Electoral Commission and that he had no excuses to justify this delay.

“How far can you go with the excuses? We shouldn’t allow any government to use this strategy to delay elections,” he added.

For more than a year, the island nation has been going through the worst economic crisis since its independence from the British Empire in 1948.

As a result of the fall in international reserves, the country was forced to negotiate a line of credit with the International Monetary Fund.

Although the bailout is yet to be approved, it has resulted in the government making adjustments in its functioning. EFE


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