Act amendment to precede local polls

By Asif Fuard

The proposed local government elections in the North will have to wait until amendments to the Local Authorities act is passed in Parliament, Assistant Elections Commissioner P. Kuganathan told The Sunday Times.

“I have been having several meetings in Colombo in regard to holding elections in the North. The environment is very favourable to go for a local government election. I have briefed the Election Commissioner about the situation in Jaffna and also hope to start preparations for the election after the Local Government and Provincial Councils Ministry along with the Elections Commissioner fix a date to call for nominations,” Mr. Kuganathan said.

A date when nominations will be called for cannot be confirmed as yet. At present the local government system does not function in the Jaffna district and in the North. We plan on going for elections to bring civil administration back on track. This is a complex process and it cannot be rushed, he said.

Mr. Kuganathan also said that on Thursday an Assistant Commissioners’ meeting will be held at the Elections Department in Colombo at which all Assistant Commissioners will be taking part, where matters relating to the proposed local government polls in the North will be discussed.

At a Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday the draft amendment presented by Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon was approved.

The act to be amended is the Local Authorities (Special Provisions) Act No 55 of 2007 which was enacted on November 16, 2007. On previous occasions elections had not been held in the 33 local bodies in the Northern Province, due to the volatile security situation caused by terrorist activities. Under Section 3 of the Act notices calling for nominations has to be done within six months from the date mentioned in the Act.

However, Cabinet approval had been obtained by Minister Tennakoon to instruct the Legal Draftsman to make necessary legal drafts to amend the date as a date not exceeding 10 months from the date amended by the aforesaid Act for calling fresh nominations to these local bodies.

The elections to the Jaffna Municipal Council were last held in 1998 after the peninsula was liberated from the LTTE. The TULF won the elections at the time and took over the administration of the council.
TULF member Sarojani Yogeswaran was elected Mayor but she was gunned down allegedly by the LTTE soon after her election to office.

Her successor K. Sivapalan also died in a bomb blast in September 1998 that targeted a Jaffna meeting between the councillors and security officials. He was succeeded by Parliamentarian N. Raviraj.

The main parties expected to play a decisive role in the northern local polls are EPDP, PLOTE, TULF, EPRLF and the TMVP which will be contesting for the first time in Jaffna.

People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) chief Kingsley Rodrigo told The Sunday Times that preparations to monitor the polls in the North have already been made.

“We already have monitors stationed in Jaffna. After nominations are called we will be playing a more active role in the region. The area has been battered by war throughout and PAFFREL hopes to see the election takes place smoothly,” he said.

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