Colombo, Feb 20 (PTI) Sri Lanka's election commission on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it is difficult to conduct the local body polls scheduled for March 9 due to a plethora of reasons linked to the country's current economic crisis.

The lawyers for the commission filed a plea citing the inability expressed by the finance ministry to release the funds required, the government printer's demand of payment in advance for the printing of ballot papers and the reluctance on the part of authorities to enhance the fuel quotas for election work.

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The commission also regretted that they were unable to keep to an earlier assurance given by the court that all arrangements would be in place to conduct the election.

The election commission's move was in connection with petitions filed by opposition parties, seeking a court writ ordering the conduct of the polls.

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They claimed that the postponement of the poll was a violation of the public right to vote and accused the government of fearing the polls for the possibility of losing the election.

The election to appoint new administrations to 340 local councils for a four-year term has been postponed since March last year due to the ongoing economic crisis.

The Supreme Court would hear a petition calling for the postponement of the election on February 23.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the majority of councils in the last election held in 2018. The party which has suffered major splits since the economic crisis is accused of fearing the election and wanting to postpone it.

The ruling party leaders have been justifying the postponement of the polls as focus must be made for the economic recovery.

The main opposition SJB staged a protest on Monday against the government's attempts to postpone the polls. The police fired tear gas shells to prevent the SJB activists from entering key government installations such as the presidential secretariat and the ministry of finance.

"We are out here on the streets today to force the government to hold the local election. We will continue our struggle," Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition leader, told the protesters.

Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking political turmoil in the country which led to the ouster of the all-powerful Rajapaksa family.

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