TNA urges PM to put off NE local polls
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 11 September 2002, 16:00 GMT]
The Tamil National Alliance Wednesday urged Sri
Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to
postpone elections to local government bodies in the
northeast scheduled to be held on 25 September. The
polls were postponed in March this year upon a request
by the TNA that the situation was not conducive at the
time. The Elections Commission said last week that the
polls to the local authorities will have to be held as
scheduled unless the law is amended.
However, the delegation of TNA MPs led by Mr.
Sampanthan that met the Prime Minister Mr. Ranil
Wickremesinghe in the parliamentary complex Wednesday
told him there is provision in the Elections Law to
put off the polls for the local authorities in the
"We have pointed out to the Prime Minister that the
Commissioner is empowered to put off the poll for a
later date under the existing law without bringing an
amendment to the Election Ordinance", Mr. R.
Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance
parliamentary group, told the TamilNet after the
Mr. Sampanthan said that there is no time for the
government to bring an amendment to the election
ordinance to postpone the northeast polls.
He said that the Prime Minister's response was very
positive to the TNA request for a postponement of
TNA sources expressed optimism after meeting the PM
that local government polls in northeast would be
The TNA delegation cited many reasons for the
postponement of the poll. They told the Prime Minister “it is inappropriate to
hold local government elections in the northeast
province as scheduled at a time when the government
and the LTTE are to attend Thailand peace talks.”
The TNA wants the elections postponed because mainly
because it bungled nominations in March, mainly in the
east due to sheer apathy in preparing the lists of
Tamil political sources said that elections to the
local bodies have to be held according to nominations
lists accepted by the commissioner of elections in
March. This would mean the inevitable victory of the
EPDP, PLOTE and the EPRLF Varatharajaperumal faction
in more than six local bodies in the east. In March
the EPRLF Varatharajaperumal faction and the EPDP were
elected uncontested to two local bodies in the east.
Countering the TNA’s reasons, an elections official
argued: “The elections cannot be postponed again
because the Emergency Regulations are no longer in
force. The Minister for Local government has to amend
the election law with a simple majority in Parliament
to cancel the polls”.
“This would certainly upset the political balance in
the Northeast sought by the TNA”, Tamil political
sources said. “The TNA will find it difficult to
cohabit at the grass roots level with local bodies
controlled by groups which they had marginalized at
the December general elections”, they added.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, meanwhile, insists the
elections to the local bodies should be held on 25
September as scheduled.
Addressing a meeting in Oluvil last month, the SLMC
leader Rauff Hakeem said that his party would leave
the UNF government if it does not hold the local
government polls as scheduled on September 25.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress feels that control of as
many local government bodies as possible in the
northeast would strengthen its doubly strengthen its
position within the interim administration which it
hopes to share with the LTTE.
“The UNF needs to resolve the issue quickly with the
TNA and the SLMC before it begins negotiations with
the LTTE in Thailand – if it has not done so already”,
said a TNA leader.
The government postponed elections to the local
bodies, including the Batticaloa and Kalmunai
Municipal councils and the Urban councils of Vavuniya,
Trincomalee and Kattandkudy in March this year
following representations made by the Tamil National
The TNA’s nominations lists for the Trincomalee UC and
eight Pradheshiya Sabhas in the Batticaloa district
and one in Ampara due to last minute bungling.
As a consequence of the TNA’s nomination lists being
rejected, the EPRLF’s Varatharajaperumal faction was
elected uncontested to the Porathivu P.S, the
administrative area of which lies in the LTTE
controlled part of the Batticaloa district.
Similarly, the EPDP was elected uncontested to the
Alaiyadivembu Pradheshiya Sabha following the
rejection of the TNA’s nomination list. An independent
group back by the SLMC was also elected uncontested to
the Eravur town P.S.
If elections are not cancelled there will be eight
local government bodies in the east, including the
Trincomalee UC, that wouldn’t be under the TNA.
This would be an impediment to the smooth functioning
of the proposed interim administration, according to
the TNA. The Tigers accuse the EPRLF’s
Varatharajaperumal faction and the EPDP of working
with the armed forces against Tamil interests.
“Control over the local government bodies and access
to local level development funds will be exploited by
the anti-LTTE groups to build pockets of political and
other influence in areas dominated by the Tigers,
leading to erosion the grass roots level confidence
building measures. This is actually why we are urging
the government to cancel the polls”, TNA sources said.
There are 3 P.S in Kilinochchi, 4 in Mannar and 4 in
Vavuniya. There are ten P.S in the Batticaloa district
– two are Muslim dominated. The TNA’s nominations were
accepted only for the Vavunathivu P.S and the
There are 14 P.S, a Municipal Council and a Urban
Council in the Amparai district. Elections have been
held to the Ampara UC and the Sinhala majority P. S of
Damana, Namal Oya, Uhana, Dehiyatta Kandiya, Lahugala,
Maha Oya and Padiyatalawa. The commissioner of
elections can hold polls for each local body
independently as it constitutes a separate electoral
unit similar to an electoral district in elections to
The government suspended elected local government
bodies under the Emergency Regulations from 1983 to
1994. Elections to local bodies were held first in
March 1994 in the east amidst charges of mass rigging
by groups working with the armed forces.
Elections to local bodies in Jaffna were held after 15
years in 1998.
The TULF filed nominations only for the Jaffna
Municipal Council and the Valigamam North Pradheshiya
Sabha, saying that armed groups such as the EPDP and
the PLOTE were a threat to supporters and potential
candidates in other areas. The term of the local
government bodies in Jaffna ended early this year. The
UNF government extended it by an year. There are 12
PS, 1 MC and 3 UCs in Jaffna.