The government will allow Municipal Councils to continue to function for another year, a senior cabinet minister said yesterday, though all other local councils were dissolved on Thursday.
Minister Susil Premajayantha, who is also General Secretary of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) told the Sunday Times, initially, the plan was not to hold elections to the MCs because of World Cup cricket matches in February and March. “However, when the World Cup cricket tournament ends in March, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will invoke powers vested in him to allow the MCs to function for another year.”
There are 22 Municipal Councils in Sri Lanka.
Two of them, the Jaffna and Batticaloa MCs, however, have not ended their specified terms and could continue to function for another two years.
The move would mean that elections to 20 MCs scheduled to be held along with elections to other local councils would not be held in March. These would include the four councils which have been upgraded as Municipal councils.
The move to delay elections to MCs comes in the wake of a request from the Mayors’ Association to the President to further delay polls as they may hamper development activities being carried out by the councils. The mayors had met in Colombo at the residence of Colombo’s Chief Adminsitrator Omar Kamil.
The proposal was moved by Kurunegala Mayor Nimal Chandrasiri. “We have various ongoing development projects in our area. Therefore, we have told the President that having an election at this stage would have serious implications in completing the work,” he said.
But the main opposition United National Party yesterday strongly opposed the government’s plans to delay elections to MCs. “The government is aware that it may be defeated in the main MCs. It is worried and does not want to face elections in these MC areas,” UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayaka said.
The government on Thursday night dissolved 308 of the 330 local councils and nominations for the elections are to be accepted from January 20 to 27.
Double promotion for Athaullah’s Akkaraipattu
The Hambantota, Dambulla and Bandarawela urban councils and the Kaduwela and Akkaraipattu pradeshiya sabhas will be upgraded to municipal councils shortly, the Sunday Times learns.
The Cabinet has approved the proposal to upgrade these councils, but a poll monitoring group has questioned the double-promotion given to the Akkaraipattu PS.
A spokesman for the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) said the proper procedure was not being followed in upgrading the Akkaraipattu PS. He accused Local Government Minister A.L.M. Athaullah, whose electoral base is Akkaraipauau, of trying to gain political mileage from the elevation of the pradeshiya sabha.
He said the upgrading of the Trincomalee and Ampara UCs to MCs had long been discussed but the authorities were yet to take a decision on their elevation.