The campaign for the clean candidacy for the forthcoming Parliamentary election is gaining momentum now that the Parliamentary elections have been announced by the Elections Commissioner on June 26. The oldest local election Watchdog, the People’s Movement for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) in collaboration with several other civil society organizations has launched this campaign, under the name of “March 12 Movement.”
The movement has laid down eight fundamental criteria for candidates aspiring to contest Parliamentary, Provincial Council and Local Government elections. A declaration by the very name, “March 12 Declaration” was signed by leaders of almost all political parties confirming their support for the criteria on March 12 this year, and PAFFREL has launched a signature campaign around the country to raise awareness and commitment among the masses on the need for clean politics through clean candidacy.
Despite many leaders, including President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe having placed their signatures on the ‘March 12 Declaration’ it is no doubt that no political party in the country except for one or two is candid in this respect, given their track record in dealing with public affairs. On the other hand, the practicability of the declaration seems to be extremely remote owing to its very nature.
For instance, the declaration requires the political parties not to give nominations to those who have involved in corrupt practices. This is important and essential. However, how can a prospective candidate of a political party be decided to be a corrupt person? And who is going to decide it?
Can one object to President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision, if he did, to give nomination to former Minister Mervyn Silva who had never violated fundamental rights of anyone in the eyes of the law, despite the whole country having watched him ordering a public officer to be tied to a tree in public? Interestingly he was exonerated from the allegation by none other than President Sirisena in his capacity as the then Chairman of the SLFP disciplinary committee.
Can the President, as the leader of the SLFP deny nominations to the former parliamentarian whose name had been mentioned by Wele Suda as one of those who had benefitted by his drug trafficking, irrespective of the parliamentarian not having been found guilty by a Court of law? The President would have to give nomination even to the person who was behind the arson attack on one of his election stages during the last Presidential election, if the latter met other requirements.
There are politicians who had been accused of involving in forging passports, declaring in public that they allowed the others to engage in corrupt practices and some have already been questioned by the CID and the FCID. Some have been accused of ruining State enterprises with ulterior motives. But ironically they could be given nominations, since they are still innocent before the law.
If any one of these politicians is found guilty for any crime, corruption or vice, the law itself would prevent him/her from contesting elections and there won’t be any role for a code of conduct, such as the ‘March 12 Declaration’. However, voters can decide on the fate of these corrupt politicians if they are well enlightened. Hence, the PAFFREL has to give more weight to its public campaign and the fruits of which could be realized at least to some extent at future elections.