POLITICAL PARTIES’ FORTUNES NOT OUR CONCERN- Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya | Sunday Observer

POLITICAL PARTIES’ FORTUNES NOT OUR CONCERN- Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya

PIC: LAKE HOUSE MEDIA LIBRARY
PIC: LAKE HOUSE MEDIA LIBRARY

The Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya, despite his tight schedule and heavy work in the run up to the polls to 93 local government bodies early next year, in an interview to the Sunday Observer said, it would become possible to hold elections to all local government bodies if the Appeal Court dissolved its Stay Order on the gazette notification on the Delimitation Committee Report. The interview happened to be a day before the Appeal Court order dissolving the Stay Order, in the wake of the petitioners who filed the writ application, withdrawing their case. Deshapriya also said, holding free and fair elections in Sri Lanka will not be possible without the support of politicians, candidates, the media, the general public and other stakeholders.

Excerpts:

Q. You are now holding elections to only 93 local government bodies and calling for nominations from December 11 -12. If the Appeal Court vacates its stay order on the gazette notification on the delimitation committee report, how soon after that will you be able to hold elections to the remaining local government bodies?

A. In the event of the dissolving of the Court Case we can hold elections to the other local government bodies on the same day, together with these 93. But we have to get the decision, at the latest by December 5 or 6.

Q. Are you confident of ensuring free and fair elections? What measures have been initiated towards that end?

A. No one can hold free and fair elections without the wholehearted support of politicians, the candidates, the general public, the media and other stakeholders. Election monitors, government officers and the police cannot do everything by themselves. It has to be achieved with the support of the people.

Voting is the people’s right and their bounden duty as well. According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN, the foundation of governance is the people’s will and that will must be exercised. Voting is the people’s right, their power and their voice. In Sri Lanka the problem is, holding elections according to predetermined schedules.

Q. Political parties have stated that holding elections on different dates, on a staggered basis, is disadvantageous to them. How do you look at it?

A. We are not worried about the advantages or disadvantages of political parties, that is not our concern.

Q. Political parties of the minorities want the elections to be held under the PR system and not under the new PR and FPP mixed system.

A. We cannot comment on the political parties’ views.

Q. Tell us about specific restrictions and guidelines on canvassing and propaganda campaigns.

A. All letters, guidelines and circulars have already been sent out to the relevant authorities. The instructions in the 8-page circular include stopping of all transfers, new recruitments, and other arrangements for the polls.

Q. Do you think the Elections Commission has the power to overrule postponement of elections and be in a position to hold them on schedule in the future?

A. Parliament and the Judiciary are above us. So we have to act by the law passed by Parliament and we have to obey Court orders. But no one can give us orders. The one thing that we can say is, sovereignty belongs to the people which the Constitution asserts. The Constitution is above Parliament and the Judiciary. The Constitution says, sovereignty is with the people and franchise is part of that. In the context of safeguarding the values of democratic principles these democratic concepts are above everything and everyone.

Q. Which election monitoring organizations will be allowed inside the polling booths and which ones will be allowed only to perform mobile monitoring?

A. PAFFREL and CMVE will be allowed to observe polling within the polling booths. I object to the use of word ‘monitoring’ because no one can monitor the polls, other than the Elections Commission. The others are only observers. We are struggling here in the process of getting the nominations, so why should anybody worry about observers at this stage? 

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