Sri Lanka postpones parliamentary poll for nearly 2 months due to COVID-19

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Election Commission has postponed the parliamentary elections for nearly two months in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed seven people and infected 295 others in the country.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 2 March dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule and called a snap election on 25 April. A gazette notice signed by the three members of the National Election Commission announcing 20 June date of the election was issued on Monday.

The EC has written to President Rajapaksa asking him to seek the highest court’s opinion on a possible constitutional standoff arising from the postponement of the election.

It said that the postponement meant that parliament would not be able to meet on 2 June, which is three months from the dismissal of last parliament on 2 March. However, Rajapaksa asserted that it was the election commission’s job to fix the polls date and as such no need for the Supreme Court’s intervention.

Earlier, the election commission met with the government officials and reviewed the pandemic situation affecting the election machinery.

On Monday, the government dropped its decision to relax the nationwide curfew and extended it to 27 April following a sudden spike of 41 coronavirus cases in the 24 last hours. On Sunday, the government announced to partially lift the curbs from Monday to boost economic activity.

The island nation has been under a 24-hour curfew since 20 March to combat the deadly viral infection. All opposition parties and many civil society groups have urged the government to show caution in trying to rush through holding the election.

Sri Lanka has so far reported 295 COVID-19 cases, including seven deaths, and 96 recoveries, since the first viral infection was reported in the country on 11 March.

The parliamentary polls were announced 6 months ahead of the schedule as Rajapaksa, who was elected as president in November, wanted a new Parliament to implement his mandate.

Rajapaksa is also under pressure to re-summon the dissolved Parliament in order to approve finances for government business from May. The previous Parliament had approved funds till 30 April.