Boralugoda lion would never have approved non-holding of elections

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NPP/JVP FR over local council elections

Philip Gunawardena, who earned the appellation ‘Boralugoda Lion’ for his fearless fights for democracy, would never approve of his son, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s quest to deprive people of their right to vote, Nigel Hatch PC told the Supreme Court last week. He was leading an elite team of lawyers supporting the JVP-NPP sponsored fundamental rights petition against the government’s delay in the holding of the local council polls.

Hatch pointed out in court that not holding the polls has not only breached the provisions of the Constitution as well as Local Authorities Elections statutes but also deprived the people of their fundamental right to franchise.

He said that the son of Boralugoda Lion, through a President’s Counsel, was pleading with the court not to hold elections. The arguments raised by the Attorney General’s Department for not holding elections have no substance. The court should intervene to bring about justice for the people, and leave should be granted for the petition.

The leave to proceed was granted by a five-judge bench of the SC, comprising Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare PC, and Justices Priyantha Jayawardena PC, Vijith Kumara Malalgoda PC, Murdu Fernando PC, and Gamini Amarasekara.

The petition was filed on March 14, 2023. The Attorney General initially raised the preliminary objections stated that the NPP petition should be dismissed as there was no case to be heard since the National Elections Commission has not been cited as a respondent.

Faiz Mustafa PC, appearing for the Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, stated that the matter of conducting the elections was now with Parliament.

The bench overruled both preliminary objections raised by the Attorney General and Mustafa on the maintainability of the petition and ordered the support of the petition on the merits.

After a nine-hour period on two hearing days, the Attorney General opposed the granting of leave to proceed against the respondents represented by him on the basis that the EC had allegedly fixed the date for elections without consulting all stakeholders and that there was no money to fund the same.

Saliya Peiris PC, appearing for the Elections Commission, said that he was ashamed to see the laughable arguments by the Attorney General’s Department. He said that the members of both the previous and incumbent elections commissions have instructed him that they were in a position to hold the elections if the funds for that purpose are released.

Faiz Mustafa PC for the Prime Minister argued that the parlous state of national economy necessitated the postponement of the elections.

Hatch in his reply submissions countered the arguments of the AG and Mustafa and added Philip Gunawardena, who earned the appellation ‘Boralugoda Lion’ for his fearless fights for democracy would not endorse the actions of his son who was defending the non-holding of elections.

Senior Additional Solicitor General Priyantha Nawana, PC, appeared for the Attorney General and the Cabinet of ministers, including the minister of finance. Saliya Peiris PC appeared for the Elections Commission, and Faiz Mustafa PC for the Prime Minister. Nigel Hatch PC, Shantha Jayawardena, Sunil Watagala and Ms S Ilangagae appeared for the NPP petitioners, namely Dr Harini Amarasuriya MP, Sunil Hendunetti and Dr Nihal Abeysinghe.The case is fixed for October 2, 4, 9, and 10 for hearing.

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