Amid tension and turmoil, conflicts within conflicts and crisis within crisis nominations for the crucial General Elections on August 17 were closed at noon yesterday with no major incidents or violation of election laws reported.
Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya acting boldly, reminded candidates that organising of public processions or vehicle parades before, during or after nominations were illegal. The Commissioner warned that if any such activities took place the police had been instructed to take necessary measures against such parades or processions. He also urged candidates and party supporters not to engage in any actions that could disrupt the activities of students who would be sitting the GCE Advanced Level Examination next month during the election campaign.
Many have been expressing the opinion that the last Parliament had many persons with allegations that they were involved in or linked to the narcotics trade, ethanol or casino businesses and other criminal activities. Whether such allegations are proven or not it is up to the voters to be mindful of them.
When Maithripala Sirisena made the dramatic crossover on November 21 last year and became the common candidate of the common opposition and certain civic action groups for the January 8 presidential election, one of the main promises was to get rid of what was widely labelled as despotism and corruption.
But after the dissolution of Parliament on June 27, President Sirisena is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United People’s Freedom Alliance came under heavy pressure from Rajapaksa loyalists and the party rank and file to allow the former President to contest the elections. Though the President was initially vary of the request, he was eventually compelled against his will to give in. Later he told the angry civic action groups in Colombo that backed him, that he had little or no control over nominations of the UPFA.
The United National Party-dominated Government took effective counter-action. At a massive party convention held at Campbell Park on Saturday, the UNP unanimously decided it would rename itself as the United National Front for Good Governance to accommodate parties and other groups involved in the change brought about on January 8 this year. As a result, Jathika Hela Urumaya leaders have got UNF nominations along with some of the Maitripala Sirisena loyalists in the SLFP, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the All Ceylon Makkal Congress and other parties or civic action groups. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that one of the main campaign targets of the UNF would be that the sovereign people should exercise their votes to prevent alleged rogues and racketeers of the former regime from coming back to Parliament.
UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha also said after nominations were handed over yesterday that four former parliamentarians Duminda Silva, Mervyn Silva, Sarana Gunawardena and Sajin de Vass Gunawardena had been denied nominations. He noted that some of the former UPFA parliamentarians who had allegations levelled against them had not been given nominations.
According to the memorandum of understanding signed for the setting up of the United National Front for Good Governance, the new alliance while continuing the Yahapalanaya will give top priority to the 20th Amendment for sweeping reforms to the electoral process. The new alliance will also set up the Constitutional Council, the Independent Commissions, implement the Right to Information Bill, the National Audit Commission Act, a National Planning Commission, Code of Ethics for Public Representatives and new laws to give severe punishment to those involved in fraud or corruption.
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