COLOMBO: The parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka cannot be held before the end of May due to the coronavirus pandemic, the election commission said on Friday, expressing concern that the situation could lead to a constitutional impasse as the new Parliament must meet within three months of dissolution.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule and called a snap election on April 25.
There are 159 COVID-19 cases in the country and five people have died of the disease.
The outbreak of the pandemic has seriously impacted Sri Lanka's economy, especially the tourism industry.
According to the Gazette notification issued by the government, elections will be held on April 25 and the new Parliament will have its first session on May 14.
"On March 31, we wrote to the president that elections must be held at least before the end of May, for that we must start making preparations from at least April 20," Mahinda Deshapriya, chief of the Independent Elections Commission, said.
He said the commission met again on the following day and decided that it will not be possible to hold the election by the end of May.
"So we wrote another letter to the president saying that it will not be possible to hold the election by the end of May and he should seek the opinion of the Attorney General," he said.
Deshapriya said as it appeared now the election cannot be held and the new Parliament would not be able to meet on or before June 2, "this will cause a conflict with article 70 of the Constitution".
It stipulates that the new Parliament must meet within 3 months of its dissolution.
Since it has now become a constitutional issue, the commission was powerless to decide, Deshapriya said.
"It is now up to the president to seek the Supreme Court's view," he said.
Since the country is in lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, Deshapriya said the new date for the election would be announced after May 14.
The parliamentary polls were announced 6 months ahead of the schedule as Rajapaksa, who was elected as president in November, wanted a new Parliament to implement his mandate.
Rajapaksa is also under pressure to re-summon the dissolved Parliament in order to approve finances for government business from May.
The previous Parliament had approved funds till April 30.