Sri Lanka calls local elections for March

Friday, January 7, 2011

COLOMBO - The Sri Lankan government Friday announced local elections would be held in March, but delayed them in urban areas.

The government dissolved 308 local councils with effect from midnight Thursday, prompting the polls, but elections have been delayed in 19 municipal councils in the main towns, Local Government Minister A.L.M. Athaullah said.

“We have had to delay the elections in some of the towns as the Cricket World Cup is being co-hosted by Sri Lanka during the same period,” he said.

Opposition parties said the government was delaying polls in urban areas as they feared facing early elections in towns where people have been affected by the rising cost of living.

“There is no logic in postponing elections in the town areas as the World Cup involves only three of the main towns,” said Somawansa Amarasinghe, the leader of the Marxist JVP.

The World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, is due to take place from Feb 19 to April 2. Sri Lanka is to host 12 of the 49 matches.

“We are against the postponement of the elections in some of the councils as this would help the government to misuse their powers in concentrating on the urban areas to win the elections,” said Karu Jayasuriya, the deputy leader of the main opposition United National Party.

In a previous provincial election held on a staggered basis the ruling party reportedly used state resources such as vehicles and government employees to move from province to province and campaign for them.

Nominations for the elections are to be accepted from Jan 20 to 27 and the elections have been tentatively fixed for March 12.

The forthcoming elections will be the first President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has faced since the presidential elections held in January last year and the parliamentary elections in April. The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance won both convincingly.

Rajapaksa’s victories were put down to the defeat of the Tamil rebels in May 2009 that ended the 26-year civil war.

Since then the cost of living has increased but the government has failed to increase the salaries of state employees despite an election promise to do so.

Filed under: Politics

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