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All three Members of the Independent Election Commission of Sri Lanka (IECSL) were of the view that President Maithripala Sirisena’s proclamation, dissolving the Parliament, was unconstitutional and illegal, IECSL Member, Professor Ratnajeevan H. Hoole said yesterday (12), through a Fundamental Rights (FR) Petition, filed in the Supreme Court, seeking the abolishment of the President’s decision to sack the Parliament and call a snap election on 5 January 2019.

Prof. Hoole’s FR Petition said that the Members of the EC met on 10 November, after the proclamation of the dissolution of the Parliament was published.

During that meeting, all the Members were in agreement that President Sirisena’s snap decision to dissolve the Parliament was unconstitutional and illegal. However, Chairman of the ECSL, Mahinda Deshapriya and the other Member, President’s Counsel Nalin J. Abeysekera said that the ECSL should proceed with preparations for conducting the Election irrespective of the legality of the proclamation. However, Prof. Hoole did not agree with them.

Since the majority of the independent ECSL were of the view of proceeding with the preparations for an Election irrespective of the legality, Commissioner General of Elections M.A.P.C. Perera was delegated the powers for performing preliminary statutory functions and the relevant administrative functions for conducting the General Elections.

Prof. Hoole, however, refused to sign the said decision as he believes that since the dissolving of the Parliament is illegal, therefore the ECSL should not proceed to conduct the Election, the petition elaborated. Mahinda Deshapriya has devolved a large section of his administrative duties to Perera for unexplained reasons, amidst reports of mounting dissension among sitting Members regarding the upcoming General Election.

The administrative duties handed over to Perera is pre-Election preliminary arrangements that includes the necessary guidelines to the Police and the media, the vetting and selection of Returning Officers, setting up of Election rules and regulations, instructions to independent monitors, setting the scheduled voting time and closure, coordinating with political parties, candidates and polling agents, and several other issues, senior most ECSL officials disclosed yesterday.

“This has never happened before and it is not standard procedure that is adopted prior to the commencement of an Election, General or otherwise, although the ECSL has the provisions to allow it,” Hoole said.

He added that at a meeting held with Deshapriya on 10 November, Abeysekera had threatened to resign which would have left the ECSL without a quorum and would leave the ECSL non-functional. The quorum requires both the Chairman and the two Members of the ECSL to perform its duties.

“In the case of a Member quitting it would require the Executive to appoint a new individual who has to be approved by the Constitutional Council (CC),” Hoole said.

Other officials explained that Deshapriya’s move was apparently aimed at preventing a collapse of operations at the ECSL in case a Member decides to quit.

Deshapriya confirmed that some administrative duties had been devolved and added that it was within the provisions of the ECSL.

He gave no reason for this move and refused to elaborate when questioned further on the matter.

(Ceylon Today)

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