Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the President, has written to Mahinda Deshapriya, Chairman of the Election Commission, pointing out that the latter has failed to act according to the full provisions of Section 24 of the Parliamentary Election Act and should have published another date for the general election as per Section 24 (3) of the Act. In the circumstances, Dr. Jayasundera has informed Deshapriya, as instructed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, that there is no need for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court.
Dr. P.B. Jayasundara sent the aforesaid letter, on 6 April, 2020, to Deshapriya in response to the letters sent by the Chairman of Election Commission, under the title ‘Parliamentary Election 2020 and Date of Summoning of the New Parliament’, dated 31.3.2020 and 01.04.2020.
Following is the full text of the letter sent by the Secretary to the President
06th April 2020
Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya,
Election Commission of Sri Lanka,
Parliamentary Election 2020 and Date of Summoning of the New Parliament
I am in receipt of your letters dated 31.3.2020 and 01.04.2020.
I am surprised that letters which have been sent for the attention of His Excellency the President by the Election Commission, in respect of the official functions of the President of Republic, have been released to the press, prior to the receipt of the letters by this office and that the same have also been copied to several others.
It is relevant to set out in brief the following facts.
1. By Proclamation made by Gazette no. 2165/8 dated 2.3.2020, Parliament was dissolved with effect from midnight of 2.3.2020 and the new Parliament was summoned to meet on 14.5.2020.
2. By the said Proclamation, the date of election of the members of the new Parliament was fixed for 25.04.2020
a. The Secretaries of several political parties gave their intent to contest the election;
b. In terms of section 15 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, several recognized Political Parties and Independent Groups submitted nomination papers setting out the names of the candidates seeking election to Parliament.
c. The written consent of such candidates were also given;
d. Deposits have been duly made in terms of section 16 and 17 of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
In the circumstances several independent candidates and several recognized Political Parties have accepted and acted in accordance with:-
a. The order dissolving Parliament;
b. The order fixing the date of Poll;
c. The date on which nomination papers be received; and
d. The nominations have been submitted to respective Returning Officers.
The Election Commission was obliged under Section 24 of the Parliamentary Elections Act to publish a notice in the Gazette specifying the matters referred to in sub paragraphs [a] to [d] of Section 24.
It appears that by the Gazette No.2167/12 dated 20.03.2020, notice was published specifying only the matters set out in [a] and [c] of Section 24, that is the poll will be taken place between 7.00a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on 25th April, 2020 in each electoral district and the electoral districts in which the election is contested.
Thereafter, a Gazette No.2167/19 dated 21.03.2020 has been issued by the Election Commission wherein the Commission has stated that the poll cannot take place on 25.04.2020 and the Commission will appoint a day coming after 14 days from 30.04.2020 as the day of taking of the poll.
Regrettably , it is necessary to point out that in terms of Section 24 the Commissioner is obliged to specify another day for taking such poll in the Gazette issued under section 24, if the poll could not take place on 25.04.2020.
Furthermore, the day for taking such poll has to be 14 days after the day on which the date of the gazette published under section 24 of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
As per the advice by His Excellency, it is not possible at this point of time to state that the election cannot be held on or before 28.05.2020. The date for fixing the poll is the responsibility of the Election Commission and His Excellency has no wish to interfere with duties and obligations of the Election Commission.
I may point out that in terms of Section 24 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, the time period giving notice of adjourned poll is not less than 14 days which implies that poll which was postponed, could be held even on 15th day.
I need hardly emphases that it is the right of the people of this country to exercise their franchise, which is their sovereign right.
In the total circumstances set out hereinbefore, I am instructed to inform the Election Commission that the question of Reference to the Supreme Court in terms of Article 129 of the Constitution does not arise.
Secretary to the President