The country at stake with loopholes in the EC Act? | Sunday Observer

The country at stake with loopholes in the EC Act?

Election Commission Chairaman  Mahinda Deshapriya
Election Commission Chairaman Mahinda Deshapriya

During a press briefing headed by the Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (EC) Mahinda Deshapriya last week at the Government Information Department, a massive loophole in the Election Commission Act was revealed.

“We are not interested”

Answering questions raised by media with regard to documents presented by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to claim his renunciation of the US citizenship, the EC Chairman said that the EC was ‘not interested’ as dual citizenship is not a reason to reject anyone’s candidacy as per the provisions of the Act. He described what happened during a meeting held between EC members and the Attorney of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President Counsel Ali Sabri last August.

“We took a decision about February this year to allow any candidate or a representative of a candidate to meet us during our weekly meetings every Monday. He (Ali Sabri) made a request to meet us somewhere in August, the last Monday of the month as I remember” Deshapriya recalled.

During that meeting in the presence of President’s Counsel Nalin Abeysekara and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole (both EC members), many things had been discussed including disqualifications to contest at the Presidential polls. PC Ali Sabri had shown a certificate to the EC members in an attempt to claim that the dual citizenship of Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been renounced.

“I took it to my hand, inspected it a little. Then I gave it to Nalin Sir and finally to Professor Hoole. I had it in my hand for about 30 seconds. Nalin Sir looked at it for another 30 seconds or one minute. Professor also checked it for 1 or 2 minutes. Professor read it as he is also a dual citizen” Deshapriya explained.

He also said that nobody issued a certificate verifying the authenticity of the shown document. “Our opinion, we are not interested. Only if the provisions in the Act is relevant to such ‘rejection’, then only we are interested”the Chairman said.

In a further clarification he said that dual citizenship is not a reason to reject anyone’s candidacy even though it is a disqualification to run for the Presidential Election.

Meanwhile, responding to queries about the leaked telephone conversation between the attorney of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President’s Counsel Ali Sabri, and himself,the Chairman also told media that he has no protest or agony over that. Also, he displayed no interest in discussing about the matter claiming that it is unfair to both Ali Sabri and himself.

Leaked phone conversation

Early last week, a phone conversation between the Chairman of EC and Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s attorney Ali Sabri was released to the media by another attorney Premanath Dolawatte, a supporter of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). During a television live show he released the phone conversation in which PC Ali Sabry asks the EC Chairman to publish the affidavit placed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Presidential candidate of SLPP. The Chairman of the Independent Commission accepts the suggestion of Ali Sabri who is backing a Presidential candidate.

In the phone conversation, both individuals discuss about another member of the Election Commission, Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole. The Sunday Observer raised a question with regard to the ‘sound’ criticism of one of the EC members by its Chairman.

“It was not a criticism. That part in the recording is not clear. If the recording was clear (I) could have answered” Deshapriya replied. Questioning the possibility of holding a secret meeting in a place where CCTV is in operation, he stressed that the news spread stating that he tried to hold the particular meeting secretly,were attacks against himself.

Pix: Shan Rambukwelle