.The most important and inspiring feature of the ongoing campaign for the general elections on August 17 is that, to a large extent the rule of law is reigning while the incidents of election violence and violations of election laws have been reduced significantly.
Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya is acting with independence and fearlessly implementing election laws. Two weeks ago he even told the State television channels to stop the repeated telecast of a widely-praised address to the nation by President Maithripala Sirisena. Democratic Party leader Sarath Fonseka, addressing a rally on Tuesday, said the current campaign was more free, fair and clean than any election held in the past 50 years. Field Marshal Fonseka thanked President Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, the Elections Commissioner, his staff and the police for strictly maintaining law and order.
The Prime Minister himself told rallies on Tuesday that the President or the Government was not interfering in any way but the Elections Department and the Police were taking effective action to uphold the election laws so much so that most people were not even aware that an election campaign was going on.
Illegal posters and cutouts, election-related processions or demonstrations have been strictly prohibited by the Commissioner and the Police. The Elections Commissioner said that the Department’s staff and the Police were ‘shooting at’ those who were violating the election laws. They were not using guns, teargas or water cannons but the more effective weapon of video cameras to shoot evidence of those violating the laws, whoever they may be. The Police have already filed more than 30 cases, with video evidence against those found to be violating election laws and we hope the courts of law will take strict action against them.
While the two main contenders---the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)—are campaigning with intensity but largely without violence against each other, President Sirisena is staying neutral and impartial. That does not mean he is not doing anything or using his powers as Head of State and Government.
In the Maldives on Sunday and Monday, President Sirisena called on Asian leaders at a jubilee summit to co-operate in the war against terrorism and drug trafficking to pave the way for this continent to live up to the hopes and aspirations of the Asian Century. After returning, the President on Tuesday visited Welioya where he had a heart-to-heart dialogue with the farmer community. He listened and wrote notes about their water crisis and other problems. The President assured them personally he would order irrigation and other officials to take immediate and effective action to resolve the crises of the farming community who have for thousands of years been an important part of Sri Lanka’s culture and civilization.
Meanwhile, in a significant move, about 110 civic action movements and trade unions signed a 14-point pledge with the UNFGG for the enactment of amendments to make the Constitution more democratic and people-friendly. Among those who signed the pledge were Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, the National Movement for Social Justice Leader Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, Ministers Karu Jayasuriya, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Rajithe Senaratne. Among the pledges were Constitutional Amendments, abolishing of the executive presidency after President Sirisena completed his five-year term and the consolidation of parliamentary democracy through a reformed electoral system based on a mix of the first-past-the-post and the proportional representation system. On the same day the UPFA launched its 12-point manifesto including provisions for a new Constitution, electoral reforms, accelerated development and the re-introduction of the Village Councils system.
While the main alliances and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna are making various promises, the sovereign people have got another chance to exercise their sovereignty. They must choose well and choose wisely to ensure that the candidates will not indulge in any criminal trafficking but serve the people and help build a just and fair society in Sri Lanka.
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