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FR petition by CPA aimed at clarifying polls procedures

‘The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is strongly considering filing a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, aimed at seeking clarification on the procedures to be adopted with regard to polling, ballot counting and other issues, which generated controversy at the Jan. 26 presidential poll’, the CPA’s Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said.

‘This will make the job of the Elections Commissioner very much easier. If the Commissioner is reinforced by the law, by the other agencies of the state etc., hopefully, he will feel that he is in a stronger position’, Saravanamuttu told this newspaper in an interview yesterday.

‘At a general election you are going to have inter-party as well as intra-party violence over preference votes, etc. It is very much up to the political parties to come-up with a code of conduct and to enforce it on their candidates, so that people who are known to cause violence would not be given nomination, besides the initiation of other forms of disciplinary action. If not, this scourge of violence will never go away’, the CPA chief explained, when questioned on the measures that could taken to curb polls violence.

When asked for his comments on current criticisms of the 17th amendment to the effect that it is ‘flawed’ and could therefore not be implemented, Saravanamuttu said that the government could implement the 17th amendment as it stands and amend it as they go along. The view that the amendment is ‘flawed’ is put forward by those who do not want to do anything about it at all, he said. ‘There is absolutely no reason why it cannot be implemented now and reformed subsequently. The issues that the amendment is seen to raise, could not be made an obstacle to implementing it’, he explained.

When asked whether the Elections Commissioner is sufficiently empowered to carry out his mandate, the CPA Head said that the !7th amendment specifically states that ‘Mr. Dissanayake and Mr. Dissanayake alone has all the powers of the Election Commission envisaged under the 17th amendment. There are Supreme Court decisions that have said that if Mr. Dissanayake has any doubt about his powers, he could go to court and seek clarification. ’Legally, there is enough space for the Commissioner to act in a serious and firm manner’, the CPA chief said.

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