Local council polls delay leaves more than 3,000 public servants joblessView(s):
The Election Commission (EC) is unable to offer relief to more than 3000 public servants contesting the local council elections and who are now in severe financial distress owing to uncertainty over the polls date.
In line with the election law, the employees have taken no-pay leave from their workplaces to contest the upcoming election as candidates. With the EC no longer able to hold the election as scheduled on March 9, many of these candidates are facing a difficult situation as they are prohibited from returning to their jobs given that the election process is ongoing.
The EC could not provide any relief to these candidates given that while the elections could not be held as scheduled on March 9, the electoral process had not stopped, Commission Chairman Nimal Punchihewa told the Sunday Times.
If the Supreme Court had issued an order restraining the EC from conducting the elections, the Commission could recommend to the Public Administration Ministry to submit a Cabinet proposal to pay the basic salaries of these employees. But the Court has not issued any such order and has asked the EC to continue with the elections. Therefore, the Commission could not make such a recommendation, the EC chief said.
A senior Public Administration Ministry official said the ministry could not legally accommodate requests from any state employee contesting the elections to be allowed to return to work until they received official communication from the EC that the election had either been put off or concluded. “Since the electoral process is ongoing, there is nothing anyone can do,” the official said.
The inability to hold the election on March 9 has also posed a headache to the Commission with regard to the ceiling it has imposed on candidates to spend on each voter.
The EC had earlier calculated the maximum amount a candidate could spend over a 49-day campaign period.
Since the EC is now set to announce a new poll date, candidates would ask for the spending limit to be raised given that the campaign period would also be extended, an EC source said.
Meanwhile, the EC will meet Finance Ministry officials and the Government Printer next week to ask them when funds can be released for the elections and when printing work related to the elections can be concluded.
Mr. Punchihewa said once these government agencies explained their position to the EC, the Commission would announce a fresh date for the elections.
The EC chairman expressed confidence that a new date for the poll could be announced before March 9.
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