With the presidential election fast approaching crunch time, the Election Commission is not pulling any punches in ensuring that the country’s important election to be held this year, most likely towards the end of November, will be peaceful, free and fair. With this in mind the EC issued several directives to political parties, monitoring groups and the media including social media websites.
Last week Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya requested political parties to submit a written ‘notice of intention’ to field candidates at the presidential elections prior to nominations being called and asked those contesting the election to refrain from fielding proxy nominees of the main candidates. This has been a practice adopted by some of the minor political parties and independent groups at elections for the purpose of securing airtime, advertising space and polling and counting agents for the benefit of the main candidate they wish to support.
According to media reports the three-member Election Commission had met some 50 representatives of major media institutions including those from the Electronic, Print and Web media and urged them to desist from broadcasting or telecasting hate speech and disinformation through their media outlets and warned that offenders would be liable to stern legal action.
At this meeting it had also highlighted the framework of media ethics to be followed from the time the election schedule is declared up to the time the election is concluded and stressed the need for the media, especially social media, to be vigilant about their news content during this period.
Meanwhile, at least 15 registered political parties are reported to have informed the Election Commission, either in writing or verbally of their intention to contest the upcoming presidential election. An EC official said some 20 candidates were expected to contest at this year’s election, one more than the 19 who contested at the 2015 presidential election, at which the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the 6th Executive President of Sri Lanka polling nearly 6.2 million votes.
Furthermore, the EC had also informed the election monitoring groups that in the event any of their officials were found engaging in political activities, they would be removed from monitoring the upcoming presidential election and that for the first time in Sri Lanka’s electoral history, the EC said it had taken steps to set up Election Dispute Resolution (EDR) units at district level to resolve matters connected to violations of election law in the run-up to the presidential election.
Amid so much being done by the Election Commission to ensure a peaceful, free and fair election it is incumbent on our part as responsible citizens of this Island Nation to desist from being a party, by either word or deed, to election violence or the violation of election law and be stakeholders of a peaceful transference of the reins of presidential office to the victor, whoever he or she may be, without bitterness, rancour or acrimony.
We end this editorial with excerpts from the inaugural speech made by D.S. Senanayake at the founding of the United National Party (UNP) on September 6, 1946 and that of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at the founding of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on September 2, 1951.
“We should understand that we are a Sri Lankan nation. Communal and Religious differences are completely ruled out. Irrespective of our being Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay or Burgher or even Eurasian, we ought to think this is our motherland. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians need to bless this island of their birth,” Mr. Senanayake said, while Mr. Bandaranaike said: “I venture to think that this is an occasion of some importance in the political history of our country. It not only marks the birth of a new political party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, but it also ushers in, in many ways, a new political era. I am certain that it is consciousness of this fact that has drawn to this meeting such large numbers of citizens of all races, religions, and classes from all parts of the country.”
At a time such as this when Sri Lanka and all Sri Lankans are looking towards the future with so much hope and expectation, let us hold aloft the vision envisaged by the founding fathers of these two major political parties, so that it will light up our Motherland’s path, which will be determined by our actions and the choices we make.