Date set for 5 PC polls

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 February 1999, 10:51 GMT]
Sri Lanka's Commissioner of Elections, Mr. Dayanantha Dissanayaka, announced today that the polls to the five provincial councils, which were postponed last year by the PA regime, would be held on April 1. The Sri Lankan government postponed the elections by a special presidential proclamation under the emergency regulations of the Public Security Ordinance.

The announcement is the consequence of a Supreme Court decision on January 27, which held the postponement invalid and unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court directed the Elections commissioner to hold the postponed elections to the five provincial councils within three months.

This put paid to speculation earlier that the PA regime will stagger the polls to suit its political strategies.

The provinces, which go to polls on April fool's day, are the western, central, northcentral, Uva and Sabaragamuwa.

The Commissioner said that the polls would be held according to the nomination papers which were filed by political parties in the five provinces last year.

The nominations were called for the elections to these provinces on July 15 and the polling was scheduled for August 28, 1998.

Political analysts in Colombo said that President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the chief partner in the People's Alliance, will have an uphill task at the hustings now.

The general outcry over the rigging and violence unleashed by the SLFP on the Northwestern provincial polls last month is yet to subside, despite efforts at damage control by the President; the UNP demonstrated last week that it can ride the wave of protest successfully at least in the capital.

The SLFP is also stymied by silent and open criticism from its key coalition partner, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, as the Muslims constitute a politically decisive segment of the population in some provinces. The leftist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), another constituent of the PA, has also been very critical of the SLFP's conduct at the Northwestern provincial polls last month.

Analysts said that the SLFP remains strong only in the Northcentral province. A UNP spokesman today said that they are exceptionally confident of winning in the central, western and Uva provinces.

However, independent observers say that the polls wont be a cake walk for the UNP either; its leadership is still weak, party funds are not made available in abundance as in former times and trouble makers in the party are yet to be reined in.

"The polls, therefore, will be crucial in every sense of the term," said polls monitor today.

The western province comprises the districts of Kalutara, Colombo and Gampaha; the north central consists of the Anuradhapura and Polannaruwa districts; the Uva of Badulla and Monaragala and the Sabaragamuwa province comprises the districts of Ratnapura and Kegalle.


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