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Sri Lanka’s local body polls formally postponed indefinitely due to non-availability of funds

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka on Wednesday formally announced the indefinite postponement of the local body polls scheduled to be held on April 25.

District Returning Officers of the respective districts issued gazette notifications saying the election would not take place on Tuesday, as the Treasury is yet to release the required funds for the polls.

The local body polls, which were earlier scheduled on March 9, got postponed to April 25, due to a plethora of reasons linked to Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis.

The notifications stated that the next date for the local council election would be determined only after the Treasury confirms the availability of the required funds or a determination by the court on the election is received.

At least three court cases regarding the election are pending, to be heard in mid-May. The Election Commission made the announcement to postpone the local body elections last week, a day after its officials held meetings with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and members of major political parties.

The Election Commission’s Director General Saman Sri Ratnayake said that the next date for holding elections would be announced only after the Treasury confirms the disbursal of funds.

Last month, the Election Commission postponed the postal voting for the local body polls due to the paucity of funds.

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In March, the Sri Lanka government’s printer Gangani Liyanage said the inability to print ballot papers to conduct postal voting from February 21 to 24 caused the Election Commission to postpone the elections.

Liyanage said that by the time the elections were postponed, she had only received Rs 40 million out of the estimated full cost of Rs 500 million from the Treasury.

The election to appoint new administrations to 340 local councils for a four-year term was postponed since March last year due to the ongoing economic crisis.

The International Monetary Fund has approved a USD 3 billion bailout programme to help debt-ridden Sri Lanka overcome its economic crisis and catalyse financial support from other development partners, a move welcomed by Colombo as a ”historic milestone” in the critical period.

Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking a major political and humanitarian crisis in the island nation. -(PTI)

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