Sri Lanka’s presidential polls to be held despite floods

Colombo, Dec 29 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s presidential election will not be deferred because of the floods that have swept many parts of the island nation over the past few days, killing 24 people with eight missing, an official said Monday.

Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said the decision to hold the presidential election Jan 8 would not be changed because of the inclement weather conditions in the country.
“No candidate, their representative or lawyers had complained or requested in this regard to the department,” Xinhua quoted him as telling reporters.
However, distribution of official ballots for the upcoming presidential election Jan 8 has been extended by three days due to the prevailing adverse weather, the election secretariat said.
The distribution of official ballots has been reportedly halted in several districts affected by the inclement weather.
According to estimates by the state-run Disaster Management Centre (DMC), nearly 800,000 people have been affected while about 80,000 people have been displaced and are housed in shelters.
“The government has instructed the relevant authorities to take immediate measures to ensure relief for the families hit by the bad weather. So far, an estimated $2.7 million have been disbursed by the government for relief measures,” Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told reporters.
Landslide warnings have been issued to 11 districts and trains to the central region have been suspended after earth mounds and boulders collapsed on to the track in several places.
Thousands have been evacuated by army and navy officials, including from tourist hot spots such as the north central town of Anuradhapura where ancient temple ruins are a popular attraction.
The towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the north central province are also home to some of Sri Lanka’s largest rice cultivations with hundreds of dams scattered around the region to provide water in the usually arid region.
Lashed by heavy showers for days, as many as 300 of these dams have reached spillage level forcing sluice gates to be opened, threatening people living downriver.
More than 7,000 army personnel have now been deployed in flood-affected areas in more than five districts for relief and rescue operations.