Sri Lanka’s election commission on Thu (19 Mar) announced the postponement of the country’s general election — scheduled to be held at the end of next month — due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Tamil Guardian reported chairman Mahinda Deshapriya as saying that Sri Lanka should focus on eradicating the spread of the virus in the country at this point.
“Coronavirus will decide when we can hold the election again,” he said.
Deshapriya’s statement came just two days after Sri Lanka’s health authorities told the Commission that “there is no serious situation in the country to postpone the election”.
Earlier this month, Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa advocated the early dissolution of Parliament and told the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders last weekend that “the elections will be held as planned”.
Sajith Premadasa, chief of opposition alliance Samagi Jana Balawegaya, however opposed the prospect of calling for a general election in the midst of the outbreak.
“What they must actually do is to suspend this election and find a solution to this corona[virus] issue. Please consider these facts and prioritize the lives of the voters over the two-thirds majority,” News First reported Premadasa as saying.
He also urged the Sri Lankan government to declare the dissolution of Parliament “null and void” through a gazette “and spend the money allocated for the election to fight the coronavirus”.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) similarly called upon the Sri Lankan government to delay the general election for the public’s safety.
“For this reason, and for the reason that all democratic aspects cannot be properly be adhered to in this abnormal situation, we request the postponement of the General Elections due to be held on 25th of April 2020,” said the alliance.