Underscoring that the Elections Commission (EC) was not concerned over the citizenship of any presidential candidate, its Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said today that he, along with two other commissioners, only observed and returned the document on US citizenship of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to his lawyer Ali Sabri.
Responding to a journalist at a news briefing held today at the Government Information Department, he said Mr. Sabri gave him a document saying it was a genuine certificate indicating the renunciation of Mr. Rajapaksa’s US citizenship.
“I took a look at it and handed it over to Commissioner Nalin Abeykoon PC. He then gave it to Commissioner Ratnajeevan Hoole. Later, he returned the document to Mr. Sabri. We were not aware of its authenticity and verifying authenticity is not our job,” he said.
He said the issue of citizenship had to be resolved in the relevant court and that the EC was solely concerned over five qualifications when accepting nominations for a presidential election; a person contesting the poll should be a citizen of Sri Lanka; be over 35 years of age; an eligible elector or should possess qualifications to be an elector; should not be subject to disqualifications under Article 91 of the Constitution; an eligible citizen, if he or she is coming from a political party and if nominated by any other political party or by an elector he or she should be a sitting member of parliament or had been an MP and should not be a person elected to the office of President twice by the people.
“We are not concerned whether he or she is a dual citizen or not at the time of taking the nomination. If there is a doubt on the citizenship of any candidate, it has to be challenged in the relevant court,” he said.
When asked what would happen in the event a candidate was challenged on citizenship after he or she was elected to an executive presidency, his response was, “no comment.” (Sandun A. Jayasekera)