President Ranil Wickremesinghe has faced criticism from many in the opposition, who believe that electoral reforms are nothing more than a manoeuvre to postpone elections. Others have pointed out that there have already been two commissions appointed to look into electoral reforms, one by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and another chaired by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and that a new commission is akin to reinventing the wheel.
As is his usual approach, Ranil Wickremesinghe remains undeterred by these criticisms and is proceeding with the reforms. He has now broadened the scope of the commission, which is now chaired by former Chief Justice Priyasath Dep and comprises 10 members.
The commission is expected to obtain and submit information, investigate, inquire into, and examine all existing election laws and regulations and make necessary recommendations for the amendment of election laws, according to a gazette notification issued on Thursday, November 2.
A group of lawyers expressed “profound concern” about the reforms, pointing out that while reforms are imperative, there is an “apprehension” that they might be intended to stall elections.
On Thursday, November 2, President Wickremesinghe issued a fresh gazette notification increasing the membership of the commission by one and expanding its powers. The committee now has six months to complete its task.
It is possible that opposition political parties and some others will stay away from the deliberations of this committee.
According to the Gazette, the commission comprises:
- Justice Wewage Priyasath Gerard Dep Esq., PC – Retired Chief Justice
- Suntharam Arumainayaham
- Senanayake Alisandaralage
- Nalin Jayantha Abeysekara PC
- Rajitha Naveen Christopher Senaratna Perera
- Ahamed Lebbe Mohamed Saleem
- Sagarica Delgoda
- Sriyani Nimalka Fernando
- Vitharanage Deepani Samantha Rodrigo
- Alan Carmichael Vere David