Elections Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya (MD) defended his action after reports surfaced he had sought special favours from the President’s office to bring down his son who was stranded overseas.
The allegations have raised concerns over the independence of the Elections Commission at a time when an election has been declared. Deshapriya had reportedly sought assistance to bring down his son Vidura Kasyapa Deshapriya, an Irrigation Engineer following a postgraduate course on a scholarship offered by the Government of Netherlands.
Vidura returned to Sri Lanka in a SriLankan Airlines flight from the UK. Deshapriya had reportedly reached out to the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Among those, Deshapriya had reportedly communicated with Jayanath Colombage, Additional Secretary to the President for Foreign Relations who is in charge of the operations to bring down stranded students and others from overseas. When contacted by Daily Mirror, Colombage acknowledged that Deshapriya had communicated with him but insisted that the normal process was followed to include his son in the list of students to be brought back.
“Yes he did speak to me,” Colombage said when asked whether Deshapriya spoke to him over the matter.
Colombage said that the Sri Lankan authorities were looking to accommodate students from the UK, Canada and Europe on the flight. “His son and a group of four fell into the same category. We also permitted another group from Geneva,” he said
However, Colombage insisted that there was “nothing unusual” over the matter as there were free seats available on the flight so Deshapriya’s son and a few others were included. “They followed the usual process. There was absolutely nothing unusual about this,” he insisted. Daily Mirror attempted to contact Deshapriya for a comment but he could not be reached.
However, he posted a statement on Facebook admitting that he had reached out to the President’s office with regards to his son, but insisted that he had not sought any special favours.
Deshapriya said that he had only forwarded request letters sent by his son and other to the President’s office and inquired if there was an issue to bring them back.
He insisted that he had never spoken to the President about this matter nor did the President speak to him.
Deshapriya also insisted that he did not attempt to use his powers as the Elections Commission (EC) Chairman to try and bring back his son. However, he said that if one feels he is guilty and that he had misused his powers as the Elections Commission (EC) Chairman, then he is prepared to step down. (Easwaran Rutnam)