The Assistant Election Commissioner for Gampaha was perusing the nomination list of the New Sama Samaja Party when he suddenly noticed a name that sounded similar to his wife’s name. Being curious over the discovery, he checked the name with the civil status of the candidate, and was surprised to find the person was a male.
How can a male with a female name be in a nomination list? He asked himself. Upon cross checking of details for verification, he found that the list had falsified details. Sixteen names out of the 43 in the list of this party led by Dr. Vickremabahu Karunaratne were bogus.
The discovery made its way well into the headlines of mainstream newspapers and main bulletins of TV and radio stations. The matter is now pending before the law enforcement authorities.
Elections Commissioner Mahinda Desapriya, in his regular meeting with the representatives of the political parties contesting the provincial council elections, noted the seriousness of the issue. He had instructed clearly to ensure that their candidates signed the nomination papers in the presence of general secretaries of respective parties. Therefore, there is no excuse for the party secretaries in the inclusion of non-existent candidates.
Political parties and their candidates play numerous tricks, exploiting the loopholes in the legal system, to get advantage for electioneering. In one such attempt, some candidates had made surreptitious attempts to be identified with the number 1 as their preferential number. The Elections Department allots numbers to the candidates depending upon the Sinhala alphabetical order of their names. Therefore, candidates had hilariously added the first letter of the Sinhala alphabet to their names though it looked odd. That is to get the number 1 allotted to them for convenience in canvassing preferential votes in the tightly fought elections.
The trick has baffled the election authorities who eventually consulted the Commissioner General for Registration of Persons to ascertain the veracity of such names spelt with the first letter of the Sinhala alphabet.
Also, in another attempt, candidates have begun to use the national emblem or flag, and the religious symbols for campaigning. Mr. Deshapriya called it unlawful in terms of the election law, and the parties were asked to restrain their members from doing so.
Despite this notification, an election monitoring body called ‘Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) released on Tuesday the pictures of posters put up by ruling United People’s Freedom (UPFA) violating this rule in the Kalutara district.
In certain areas, the candidates have marked their party symbols along with preferential numbers along highways.
Intra party rivalry is visible during the campaign. That is apparently to outsmart each other in the number of preferential votes, or to position themselves with a bigger stake for the chief ministerial post. Interestingly, in the southern province, former Education Minister of the Province Chandima Rasaputhra and former Chief Minister Shan Wijayalal Silva are projecting themselves as the chief ministerial candidates. Mr. Rasaputhra is contesting the election from the Matara district under the UPFA’s betel symbol, and Mr. Wijayalal from the Galle district.
Mr. Rasaputra is already accused of summoning school principals for a meeting, and asking them to work for him during the election. The Matara district election authorities have got it verified from the principals who attended the meeting.
The abuse of public servants for political purposes, especially during elections, is against the law.
South Africa to play key role in SL
Amid electioneering in the Western and Southern provinces, the government has taken diplomatic initiatives to tackle the issues confronting the country in the international arena. As part of this effort, a delegation led by Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva left for South Africa on Tuesday to hold talks with the leaders of African National Congress(ANC) which is the ruling party of that country. ANC, earlier led by South Africa’s iconic President the late Nelson Mandela , had agreed to share its experiences, in the post apartheid period, with Sri Lanka for bringing about reconciliation . The delegation consists of the External Affairs Ministry Monitoring MP Sajin de Vaas Gunawardane, Batticaloa SLFP organiser Arun Tambimuttu and Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha. They will study the South African experience, particularly with reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to derive insights from it to be adapted to the Sri Lankan situation.
It is learnt that the government is exploring the possibility of South African experience particularly to deal with those who purportedly violated the International Humanitarian Laws during the war period.
GL to lead Geneva battle
The heat is up against Sri Lanka once again in Geneva. The United States (US) sponsored resolution is to be taken for a vote on March 28. According to diplomatic sources based in Colombo, the US is planning to draft its resolution based on some aspects of the report compiled by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay. However, the resolution will not be grounded fully on the recommendations by Ms. Pillay who visited Sri Lanka last year.
Already, the government has prepared its response to Ms. Pillay’s report, rejecting a call for an international inquiry into the allegations of human rights violations and accountability issues during the latter part of the war.
The government’s delegation will be led officially by External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris this time, casting aside Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who did it previously. Prof. Peiris will address the session on March 3, outlining Sri Lanka’s case. Sri Lanka’s delegation will comprise Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mahinda Samarasinghe, MP Sajin Vaas Gunawardane, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga.
Wigneswaran speaks out
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran addressed a conference on the Post War Socio-economic development in the northern and eastern provinces. The event was organised by the University Grants Commission. Academics from different universities made their presentations.
Mr. Wigneswaran, the retired Supreme Court judge, delivered the keynote address. At the beginning of his speech, he recalled that more value had been ascribed to his six month career in politics than his career in the legal profession for half a century.
He said, “I am indeed flattered that the Sri Lankan academia, under the leadership provided by the University Grants Commission, has thought it fit to invite me today to deliver the keynote address on “Accelerated Provincial Development - The Way Forward”. I am mindful there is probably more value ascribed to my career of barely half a year as a politician than my career of half a century in the legal profession or quarter century as a judge!
He said, “Firstly, you have correctly identified the context as ‘post-war’ and not ‘post-conflict’, as the political settlement to address the root causes of the conflict are yet to be found. Unfortunately, the dominant rhetoric in the South today on the political solution appears to be regressive and intent on rolling back to conditions that were the spawning ground for violence in the first place. Secondly, the emphasis on economic development in the post-war context is particularly apt, as there is a critical need to adopt a holistic view of the prevailing context of the war torn society of the Northern Province, which was the most affected by the war, and their multifaceted needs such as psycho-social issues, loss of livelihoods, socio-cultural issues, environmental issues and rule of law and human security issues.
UNP to launch Jana Jaya
MP Kabir Hashim, a member of the UNP Leadership Council, has evolved a programme called ‘Jana Jaya’ to rejuvenate the party at grassroots level in view of major elections on the cards. MP Hashim gave a detailed account of his programme to the party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. He asserted that all the electoral organisers would be assigned to form ‘Bala Mandalas’ at village level to promote the party and its policies by the end of June. The party has taken a tough line this time. The electoral organisers who fail in this mission will be sacked , UNP sources said.