Sri Lanka in quandary over holding elections amid virus

COLOMBO (AP) – Sri Lanka’s election commission met with government officials yesterday to discuss ways to avoid a possible constitutional crisis if the country fails to hold parliamentary elections before a mandated deadline of June 2 because of the coronavirus.

The commission must decide whether to hold the polls, which could expose more people to the virus, or let the country plunge into its second constitutional crisis in less than two years.

Sri Lanka reported 24 new infections yesterday, its most in a single day. It now has a total of 295 confirmed cases, with seven deaths and 96 recoveries.

“We will be dealing with legal questions and whether it is safe,” said Ratnajeevan Hoole, one of three election commissioners.

“I don’t think we have the right to ask the people to go and expose themselves to the virus without expert opinion,” he said.

Also yesterday, the govern-ment lifted a daytime curfew in many areas of the country, except ones identified as high risk, to restart the economy.

In 2018, Sri Lanka came to a standstill for 52 days after then President Maithripala Sirisena sacked his prime minister. The crisis was ended by a Supreme Court decision that restored the prime minister.