Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, yesterday, stressed the responsibility on the part of the government to hold elections as scheduled.
Jayasuriya said that elections should not only be held in a free and fair environment but on time. The Speaker said so in his brief comments at an event organised by the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) at the BMICH to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Gampaha District UNP MP Jayasuriya twice emphasised the need for scheduled elections to take place. Among those in the audience were members of the National Election Commission (NEC) Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Anil Abeysekera.
Deshapriya, recently, released a letter he in his capacity as the NEC Chairman had written to Speaker Jayasuriya and senior representatives of political parties represented in Parliament directly blaming Parliament for the inordinate delay in conducting Provincial Council polls.
The Speaker was referring to the much-delayed Provincial Council polls. Six Provinces have been placed under Governors.
The following Provincial Councils, Sabaragamuwa (dissolved on Sept. 26, 2017), East (Sept 30, 2017), North Central (Oct 01, 2017), Central (Oct 08, 2018), North Western (Oct 10, 2018) and North (Oct 24, 2018) are under Governors rule.
Speaker Jayasuriya faulted all those who had exercised power for causing problems in respect of the electoral process. Referring to the 1999 Wayamba Provincial Council polls, Jayasuriya recalled how political parties and the civil society had worked towards to bring in the 17th Amendment to the Constitution to create a free and fair environment.
Speaker Jayasuriya paid a glowing tribute to the PAFFREL for its efforts over the past three decades to facilitate free and fair elections.
Jayasuriya acknowledged that big cities and states in neighbouring countries with bigger populations than in Sri Lanka were managed in a far better way though they didn’t have Presidents, Prime Ministers or Speakers.
Speaker said that contentious issues and problems shouldn’t be exploited by political parties for political gain.
The former UNP Deputy Leader agreed with PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi that one major factor for the people leaving the country was the absence of virtuous political leadership. Regretting the situation, Jayasuriya said that it was a matter for concern.
Acknowledging the presence of the Speaker and representatives of political parties represented in Parliament, Hettiarachchi alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political leadership to ensure the wellbeing of people hence the citizens seeking to migrate.
Addressing the gathering, Deshapriya said that denial of an opportunity to exercise their franchise was antithetical to all democratic norms. However, Deshapriya reiterated that his Commission as an institution or he as a member wouldn’t seek judicial intervention to have Provincial Council polls conducted.
Deshapriya maintained that it was the responsibility of those who had moved court before on matters related with elections et al to step in again.
NEC Chairman emphasised that he wouldn’t resort to legal action in respect of delayed Provincial Council polls as his outfit never sought judicial intervention before. Deshapriya criticised those who intervened in such matters selectively. NEC member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, who was among the audience, moved court last year against the dissolution of Parliament on Nov 09, 2018 by President Sirisena, to pave the way for general election on Jan. 09, 2019.
Commending the services rendered by the PAFFREL over the years, Deshapriya said that the Election Commission had twice differed with the civil society organization in respect of introduction of a sticker at 2000 parliamentary election and its report on 2008 Eastern Province Provincial Council polls.
Deshapriya revealed that, at various international fora, the failure on the part of Sri Lanka to hold scheduled elections had been raised much to their embarrassment. Deshapriya said that he and senior NEC official M.M. Mohammed had avoided the questions.
Having recalled the launch of PAFFREL in the 1980s, Hettiarachchi said that the outfit was exploring ways and means of changing the present political culture. With the participation of like-minded organisations, they had formed the March 12 Movement to convince the people’s representatives of the need to mend their way, Hettiarachchi said, noting that the civil society should not only urge political parties to nominate candidates acceptable to the people but also examine their post-election conduct.