The controversy over substituting the winning independent group candidates with UNP members in the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is likely to end up in a legal battle as a 22-year-old trishaw driver was set to be sworn in as Colombo`s new mayor.
True to form, the leader of the independent group that won the Colombo municipality elections with the backing of the UNP has nominated his brother-in-law Uvais Mohamed Imthiyaz, hailing from Modera and Kankanamge Chandrasena, 65, as mayor and deputy mayor. The names are due to be gazetted by the Elections Department next week.
Mr. Imthiyaz, brother-in-law of independent group leader Annapillai Rajendran and his deputy will be sworn in soon after the gazette notification is issued. Thereafter they are expected to tender their resignation enabling the UNP members to replace them in the council.
However until the resignations are given, Mr. Imthiyaz and Mr. Chandrasena will serve as mayor and deputy mayor. The battle between the UNP and the UPFA over the controversy of replacing the winning candidates has already begun with the UPFA`s unsuccessful mayoral candidate, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, declaring that the UNP will not be able to make substitutions.
He said the Commissioner of Elections would have to decide whether the substitutions were legally valid, but as far as the UPFA was concerned it was against such a move as it was against the law.
?A special commissioner may have to be appointed if a complicated situation arises and the Minister of Local Government believes that the council cannot carry on with its functions,? Mr. Nanayakkara said.
But, UNP`s Assistant General Secretary Tissa Attanayake told The Sunday Times the UPFA should allow the will of the people to prevail and it was clear the people had elected the independent group backed by the UNP.
?The UPFA, before the elections made a series of attempts to scuttle our victory and now it should not try to prevent the UNP from taking over the council as the people of the city want the UNP to run the council,? he said.
Independent group leader Rajendran told The Sunday Times all his party members, except two had agreed to resign and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would have the authority to name replacements.
?It is very clear that it is because of the backing of the UNP that our members were elected. Therefore the opposition must respect the will of the people and allow the UNP to take office in the council,? he said.
The Sunday Times learns Mr. Rajendran, Mr. Imthiyaz and other members of the independent group are virtually in hiding to avoid pressure from various sections including the UPFA to change their position.