Reject parties that fielded corrupt candidates | Sunday Observer

Reject parties that fielded corrupt candidates

Crusaders for clean politicians: M.M.Mohamed, Gayantha Karunatilleke, Mahinda Amaraweera, Vijitha Herath, and Rohana Hettiarachchi
Crusaders for clean politicians: M.M.Mohamed, Gayantha Karunatilleke, Mahinda Amaraweera, Vijitha Herath, and Rohana Hettiarachchi

The March 12 Movement, a collective of civil society groups, last week warned that it will seek court intervention to get the ‘black hats’ expelled from running for Local Government elections in February 2018.

The Movement last week said that a total of 25 candidates fielded by three leading main stream political parties were lawbreakers with some having pending court cases against them.

According to Sri Lanka’s election law, once the District Returning Officers accept the nomination lists from political parties, there is no way of disqualifying the candidates, Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M.Mohamed told the Sunday Observer.

Even if the candidates volunteer to resign, it has no effect as per existing election law.

The District Returning Officers have the authority to annul the nominations of a political party or a particular candidate based on technical grounds only.

The political parties have the sole authority on nominating clean individuals to run for public office in any election since the introduction of the new electoral system, axing preferential votes recently. The voters have, thus, lost their right to choose preferred members to office.

The upcoming LG elections will be the first to be held under the new electoral system.

Executive Director of PAFFREL, Rohana Hettiarachchi said since the nomination lists have already been accepted by the District Returning Officers, there is no way to get the candidates with questionable records removed from contesting the elections and holding office, other than litigation.

The only means is to file a court case against the individual and get his membership annulled. In case the court determination comes after the elections, the member whose nomination is challenged stands to lose his seat depending on the ruling.

“We made attempts to file objections on certain candidates at the time of accepting nomination but the Returning Officers have to confirm these allegations before the close of nominations which is a matter of a few hours and is not an easy job,” Hettiarachchi said. The March 12 Movement is chaired by PAFFREL.

The JVP has also submitted objections on certain candidates on similar grounds.

However, the main two political parties in the government, the SLFP and the UNP rejected accusations that their parties have nominated thugs or criminals for the mini election which elects members to develop towns and villages.

Lands and Parliamentary Reforms Minister Gayantha Karunatilleke said his party has fielded ‘reputed and famous’ characters for the upcoming local government polls.

“We have instructed our leaders in the grassroots to select immaculate individuals. I am sure these guidelines have been followed by the selection boards and none of our candidates, are convicts of any sort,” he said refuting allegations by the March 12 Movement.

The March 12 Movement is a civil society movement launched with a mission to elect clean and corruption-free politicians to public office.

Its members include CMEV, Transparency International of Sri Lanka, Sanasa Group and artists’ and university lecturers’ unions.

The election law spells out, that an individual who has served three months or more in jail in a criminal case and who has become a convict in any other case and completed six months in jail, is prohibited from running for public office.

But the individuals who have court cases are exempted on the grounds that they are not convicted of any crime.

The allegations are, some of the candidates have court cases on rape, murder and illicit liquor with some individuals having several cases against them.

The count of 25 has been made based on the complaints received by the March 12 Movement so far.

Hettiarachchi said these 25 candidates represented three main political parties in the fray, including, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

“We cannot say if the other parties have also fielded such candidates but we are yet to receive complaints against the JVP, ITAK, CWC or any of the small parties,” he added.

The UPFA General Secretary and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said, the SLFP party leadership also issued instructions to ensure that nominations are given to educated, intellectuals who are leaders in society.

The intention, he said was to appoint clean politicians who would serve the people instead of themselves.

“We are aware of the accusations against the local government members during the previous regime. President Maithripala Sirisena, therefore, was extremely careful not to repeat those mistakes,” he said.

“We had to field about 8,000 candidates for the election this time. This was an issue, screening such a huge number of people, he said, adding that,” If there is an allegation we will definitely look into it.”

JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath said there were no accusations against the JVP candidates contesting the polls.

Confirming that there was no legal path to remove the already nominated candidates, he said,“The only option we have now is to expose candidates with questionable records and get the voters to reject those parties that have fielded the corrupt candidates.”

It has also come to light that decisions taken by the parties to re-nominate former top LG members such as Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of LG bodies have also resulted in nominating questionable candidates for the election.

The March 12 Movement has pointed out that this was a mistake by the political parties.

Hettiarachchi said they hope to meet the IGP and request more police presence in areas where such people have been nominated as they expect more violence there than in other places, in the run up to the elections.

The Movement has decided to call for the revision of the law governing this sector in the future.”

We hope to recommend the Election Commission to make the police report mandatory to award nominations in the future.

That way the Commission can screen whether these candidates have past criminal records or pending court cases against them.