Presidential Elections Act: Spat between Bishop, EC over violation | Sunday Observer

Presidential Elections Act: Spat between Bishop, EC over violation

A conflict has taken place between Bishop of Colombo Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Canagasabey and Election Commission member Prof. S. R. H. Hoole over the Annual Report of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Colombo of the Church of Ceylon. Prof. Hoole accuses the church of violating Article 78 (2) of the Presidential Elections Act.

In a letter addressed to the Bishop, Prof. Hoole pointed out the annual report consisted of elements that can be deemed politically biased. During the meeting (Oct 22) where the said report was discussed several members, including Prof. Hoole’s nephew, voiced politically skewed statements. These, he explained, could influence voters.

After the meeting, Prof. Hoole has proceeded to handover the annual report to Additional Commissioner of Elections, Legal and Investigations, B. P. C. Kularatne who in turn has written to Bishop Canagasabey stating “the Election Commission has observed that there is some political content in the Committee Report which can be used as a promoting tool of a political party or a candidate. It is in violation of the Election Law”.

In his reply to Kularatne’s letter, addressed to the Commissioner General, Elections Commission, the Bishop said the report was intended for “private circulation only” and he was not able to understand how its content has violated Election Laws as accused.

He added, “Our Church consists of believers of different ethnicity from all parts of the country, who speak different languages.

It is obvious that such persons would have diverse political views.” He explained that in this setting no political propaganda can be discussed or permitted to be discussed.


Permit me to make some corrections. On 22 Oct. at St. Lukes Borella was a public meeting on the Presidential Elections. Several political statements were made -- e.g., "do not vote for the JVP.". I warned Archdeacon Perry Borhier who was in charge that Section 78(2) of the Presidential Elections Act forbids political statements from religious premises and walked out. He seemed to think that laws do not apply to the Church and continued to allow political statements to be made. It was at the larger meeting at the Cathedral on 24 and 25 Oct. at the annual meeting of the diocese where the Bishop and Brohier were on the stage that more political statements were made -- The report of the Standing committee ridiculed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about his creating history and political turmoil. A headline in the report read “After Ten Years Back to the Gloom of Terror.” These words clearly demote the SLPP and advance the UNP and are unlawful. The Bishop engaging in theatrics refused to follow the Commission order to not discuss the report. He boasted of being willing to go to jail. Now realizing the gravity of his offence he says the report was for private circulation -- although even at a private meeting in church such politics is forbidden. Further,. the meeting was open to the public with reporters permitted to cover it. I expect my church not to violate the law and then come up with poor excuses.