The JVP is ready for a general election that would be held under an environment where COVID-19 virus has been contained, and necessary health processes are followed to protect people’s lives says the Information Secretary of the JVP Vijitha Herath.
He pointed out that curfews are imposed from time to time for whole days and also from 10.00 p.m. to 4.00 a.m. every day. Also, health recommendations relevant to holding an election have not been made available to the Elections Commission yet.
Comrade Vijitha Herath made these observations speaking at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP yesterday (3rd).
He said, “The President dissolved Parliament on 2nd March. It was done with the power vested on the President to dissolve Parliament after 4 ½ years of its five-year term. Accordingly, the election was to be held on 25th April. Meanwhile, a Chinese woman was recorded as the first corona infected patient in Sri Lanka. At the second half of January, a presidential task force had been established. By the end of last year, corona patients were recorded in China and the virus was spreading throughout the world.
Even when Parliament was dissolved on 2nd March, there was a risk of the covid-19 virus to our country. The first Sri Lankan covid-19 patient was identified on 11th March. Covid-19 situation was questioned in Parliament on 11th February. The government stated that the epidemic could be contained. It was stated that equipment had been fixed at the airport to identify the infected and no infected person could enter the country. However, our country regrettably became prey to the pandemic.
Despite that, the government continued to state that the election would be held on 25th April as scheduled. The government did not take the moves that could have been taken initially. Even when covid-19 hazard steadily increased the main aim of the government was to hold the election as soon as possible. Once the nominations were received on 19th March the Elections Commission, considering the pandemic situation, decided not to hold the election on 25th April. It is due to this decision of the Elections Commission that holding an election during a dreadful pandemic was prevented. As a constitutional issue would surface when Parliament cannot be convened within three months due to the change of date of the election, the Commission requested the President to get a Supreme Court deliberation. However, the President failed to do so. Had the President taken that step, this issue would not have continued or become so complex. The issues regarding whether an election should be held within three months or will there be complications if it is not held within three months could have been solved easily. Due to this failure on the part of the President, various parties filed petitions claiming their fundamental rights were violated.
The Elections Commission decided 20th June as a date for the election. They expected that covid-19 pandemic would be contained by that time. Meanwhile, the judgment on the petitions was declared yesterday. It states there is no authority to annul the gazette issued by the President dissolving parliament. While the petitions were heard the Elections Commission informed Court that the election could not be held on 20th June as announced earlier and at least 10 to 11 weeks were needed, from the date an all-clear certificate was received from the Health authorities to work out the logistics involved in holding the general election.
We, as a political party, emphasized that holding elections is a fundamental characteristic of democracy. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary are the main pillars of democracy. As such, the Parliamentary election should be compulsorily held. However, due to the prevailing situation, it is important that three matters are considered in holding the election. The first is the protection of the general public. People’s lives should not be risked by doing anything that escalates the pandemic. Also, the protection of the state employees who are called upon for election duties should be affirmed. If not the pandemic would develop in another round. The political parties should be able to take their policies to the people. They should be able to get equal opportunities to hold meetings, carry out campaigns,,, distribute leaflets and manifestos and meet people.
What the authorities have presented are details we have to follow as citizens. Health guidelines to be followed under a ‘controlled pandemic situation’ have been presented. They include protective measures to be followed from wearing face masks to means of transport. However, they do not include recommendations relevant to holding an election. The Election Commission has requested for the necessary recommendations. These matter s were discussed during the court proceedings as well. However, no such recommendations have been received by the Election Commission. The Director-General of Health had said he would make them available today.
The laws necessary to follow such recommendations have not been stipulated. The situate ion before the election, the state existing on the day of the election and counting should be considered. How election campaigns are carried out, the process adopted in the polling stations, whether the election is held on one day, whether counting is to be done on two days as there are many polling agents are matters that have to be considered. Political parties should be given equal opportunities to take their views and policies to the people.
The Election Commission informed Court that the election could be held within after a period of 9 to 11 weeks after the health authorities declare it is safe to hold the election. As such, we believe that the election will be held, taking into consideration the protection of the general public and the election officials as well as creating equal opportunities for political parties to carry out their campaigns. We hope the Election Commission will announce a date for the election within a day or two.
The election process should be carried out in a manner so that the lives of the people and that of election officials are protected. We observed that COVID-19 pandemic situation in South Korea escalated once the election was held there. The election in our country should be held without allowing such a situation to occur but making use of the experiences gained in that country. We expect the Election Commission to take measures to hold the election taking into consideration the prevailing conditions. We know that the group wielding power could use its position to get an advantage over the other parties. We expect the Election Commission to regulate the conditions so that app parties could have equal opportunities.
The JVP together with several other forces and organizations contest the election as the National People’s Power (NPP). We have already prepared our programme and are waiting to implement it as soon as the election date is announced. We are prepared to contest the election and contribute to the democratic process in the country.”