Former Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya (Courtesy

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is calling on the government, opposition and all other stakeholders to put aside political differences and avert a constitutional crisis, which he terms a third crisis, the country can ill-afford at this time. Like almost all other countries fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka’s economy too has taken a severe beating.

Taking to Twitter, Mr. Jayasuriya making a public statement in response to queries he has received regarding the current impasse between government and the Election Commission on whether or not to hold parliamentary election at the end of May, given the COVID-19 situation Sri Lanka is dealing with, states, that a constitutional crisis runs the risk of ‘delegitimising and destabilising our country and could gravely impact Sri Lanka’s prospects of obtaining economic relief.’

Mr. Jayasuriya adds that the government and the opposition must ‘engage with the Election Commission and with each other urgently and in good faith to explore immediately, any new laws or precautions the Commission considers would allow t hold the election on time.   If that is not possible, says Mr. Jayasuriya, ‘a constitutional crisis must be avoided at all costs.’

Sri Lanka’s parliament was dissolved by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2, this year and the date for the poll was April 25, with the new Parliament set to meet on May 14th.  However, the EC, invoking its authority under Section 24 (3) under the Parliamentary Elections Act, announced on March 21, that the poll could not be held as scheduled as the country was dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to article 70 (5)(a) of the Constitution, a new Parliament must meet no later than three months of the date parliament is dissolved, in this case, by June 2, 2020.

When the EC announced it could not hold the poll on April 25th as scheduled, the new date for the election to be conducted was expected to be towards the end of May, which would still enable the new parliament to meet by June 2nd.

Written exchanges have been taking place between the Secretary to the President and the Election Commission, in which the former has said the government sees no impediment to holding the election on or before May 28 this year.  However, the EC has stated that the prevailing COVID crisis and logistical issues are constraints it is facing in holding an election in time to ensure that Parliament could meet by June 2nd.  In fact, one of the Election Commission members, Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole, publishing an open letter recently in response to an interview given by Dr. P B Jayasundera, the Secretary to the President  had listed the many constraints the Commission faces and also adding that  ‘One, the public in fear of CORONA-19 would not stand in lines to vote. That means they will lose their franchise, but will exercise their franchise if we do not rush into polls and watch the situation.”

The former speaker in his statement goes on to say that  while all other countries are putting aside political differences to fight the COVID-19 crisis, “Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face the COVID-19  crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences.’


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