Main parties readying for Northern pollsView(s):
The two main political parties have begun the process of picking candidates to contest the upcoming Northern Provincial Council (NPC) polls after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent announcement that the much delayed election would be held in September.
However, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the dominant party in the North, said it will wait for the formal announcement of the polls.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) will invite prospective candidates to send in applications next week while the United National Party (UNP) has also started selecting candidates. “Next week, all the Tamil newspapers will carry advertisements inviting applications from prospective candidates,” said Basil Rajapaksa, Economic Development Minister and SLFP Chief Organiser.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the SLFP will contest under the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) banner. However, next week’s advertisements are targeted at candidates who wish to align themselves with the SLFP. “The UPFA will also have negotiations with other parties to decide on allocations for each party,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, TNA National List Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said his party was ready to contest the election but will wait for a formal announcement of the poll date.
The election will be held under the 2011 electoral list in which around 700,000 registered voters are qualified to vote at the polls. A total of 38 members will be elected to the NPC from the four districts in the north, namely Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.
During UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to the north in the last week of April, one of the party objectives was to lay the ground work for the upcoming election, a party official said.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayaka said that the UNP would contest the election on its own under the elephant symbol and would pick the candidates from the north after interviewing them. “Even though we will contest the polls alone, we are ready to join in an alliance with any other party in the opposition to set up the Council if necessary,” he said.
Even though the SLFP is readying itself for the polls, several of its coalition partners in the ruling UPFA are opposed to the polls. Minister Wimal Weerawansa who represents the National Freedom Front (NFF) said that holding the polls would mean giving too much power to the NPC. “This Council will be given police and land powers and we are opposed to it,” he said. He made his views public at last Wednesday’s May Day rally and said it was the reason he had decided not to participate in the UPFA rally.
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who represents the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) said that his Party is opposed the PC system in its present form and the law needs to be amended.
He also said that the electoral list needs to be revised before the elections are held as many former residents of the north, who were once registered voters there, are no longer included in the present list. “If the poll is held under this present electoral list, many residents of the north who live outside the area now, will be denied the chance to elect their representatives,” he said.
He said the issue has been brought to the attention of the Government and the Elections Department and he hopes it will be rectified before an election is held.
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