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Don’t give nominations to actresses – PAFFREL Chief

Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of election watchdog, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), requests political parties not to grant nominations to actors and actresses. In an interview with our sister paper, Mawbima, he urged the political parties to not only look at fame, when selecting candidates for future representatives of the public.

Following are excerpts:

Q:
Is PAFFREL against granting nominations to actors and sportsmen?

A: We requested political parties not to grant nominations at this election, to personalities purely based on their popularity.

Q:
Why only at this election?
A: We will soon be having Provincial Council elections. But, we say this with a view of all future elections.

Q:
What is the reason for this request?
A: We expressed concern about the ongoing talks on fielding the relatives of several incumbent politicians and also actors and sportsmen as candidates at the upcoming election.

Q:
Do you mean to say that actors, actresses and sportsmen and sportswomen are not suitable for politics?
A: No. Being an actor or a sportsman is not a disqualification. But, it is not the only qualification. They must be capable of working with the people who are experienced in politics. They must have the capacity to do the representation properly and they must also be disciplined.

Q:
Aren’t there actors and sportsmen who have been successful in politics?
A: We appealed to the political parties to consider how many of the actors and sportsmen, who entered politics, have been successful. Then we can come to a conclusion about them.

Q:
Has no one been successful?
A: We have observed the vision and capability of former Cricket Captain, Arjuna Ranatunga. Vijaya Kumaratunga was also a politician with vision. There are other similar personalities too. But, how many of those who have entered politics can be termed as belonging to that calibre?

Q:
Can you name who are not?
A: It is not good to name people. As a monitoring organization, we don’t want to see persons being advantaged or disadvantaged due to our statements. We must be moderate. Generally, we can see such personalities. Political parties and people must decide whether to continue with these people or not.

Q:
Political parties sometimes say that the wrong selections are done by the people…
A: As of late, ministers, MPs and the secretaries of the parties have started saying that the voter is wrong as they elect such persons into political office. But, we would like to argue that the political parties are fundamentally in the wrong in creating such a situation.

Q:
Why do you say so?
A: Voters have to elect the candidates the political parties nominate. Therefore, the major responsibility lies on the political parties that compile the nomination lists.

Q:
What are the criteria that you propose to follow when selecting candidates? Is it educational qualifications?
A: In the past, those who were not that educated entered politics and performed their duties marvellously. It is debatable whether the learned people also perform their duties properly in politics. Education qualifications alone are not sufficient. They must be intelligent, mature and honest people with experience.

Q:
But everybody is not experienced…
A: That argument is objective. Candidates can enter politics and gain experience. But, basically, they must have discipline.

Q:
Do you mean that undisciplined individuals are in politics?
A: Recent examples prove that. We studied news reports on 48 incidents of violation of law by ill-mannered politicians in the last three months.

Q:
But only a few sportsmen and actors are in politics…
A: We cannot say this phenomenon is limited to actors and sportsmen. It is also true that this category is a fraction of those in active politics. But, criminal charges against politicians in Parliament, Provincial Councils or Local Government Bodies have become quite common. The majority of them are in the political party that is in power. However, it is not a completely new phenomenon.

Q:
But, this is not limited to politics…
A: Yes. This can be seen in other sectors as well. But in politics, this is relatively serious since they are the law and policy makers.

Q:
These kinds of allegations are levelled against the police as well…
A: Yes, the police and public servants are also charged with such wrongs. But, the charges against politicians are more serious.

Q:
Has this happened due to an error in selecting candidates?
A: Yes. Candidates are selected, based on the close relationship with the party leader, spending power, personality, beauty, fame and popularity.

Q:
But the voters also accept them…
A: That’s right. It is a problem. People do not need to go after politicians, if the services provided by the State are easily accessible. When the police or a public office provides a certain service, which they declined to provide earlier, under the orders of a politician, people have no other choice but go after the politicians to get their work done. People have to go after politicians to get a job, to admit a student to a school and so forth. The reason behind this situation is the politicization of all the sectors.

Q:
Can you name such politicians?
A: I can’t name politicians as PAFFREL Director, but I can reveal the names privately. We cannot hate politicians. The Commissioner of Elections also says that we cannot solve this problem by hating politicians. I agree with him. Politicians prepare policies to develop the country.

Q:
Do they actually contribute to the development of the country?
A: Unfortunately, it is a problem. For example, in the Gampaha District, an actress pushed back experienced politicians and was elected to Parliament at the previous General Election. Where is that actress now? Does she represent the people’s interests?

Q:
Do you think there is a problem about what the voters consider when voting?
A: Yes, a politician who gained a very low number of preferential votes in the Colombo District gained a huge number of preferential votes in the Gampaha District.

Q:
Isn’t there policy based politics in Sri Lanka?
A: The majority contest elections entirely for personal gains.

Q:
Is it always so?
A: Yes. Let’s take a look at all the crossovers. Can you name one politician who crosses over based on policy, in good faith and refusing positions? Some say monetary dealings are behind these crossovers, but we don’t have proof.

Q:
What is your view about holding Provincial Council elections at this juncture?
A: We are against it. There is no barrier against holding elections for the Provincial Councils on a staggered basis. However, it is not correct, no matter who is in power.

Q:
Why does the government do it?
A: One reason is to test the popularity of the incumbent government. Another is to influence later elections with the earlier one’s results. If they win the Western and Southern Provincial Councils, it may have an impact on Uva. The other is getting the assistance of all the forces to win an election in a specific area. We observed this during past elections. Even the underworld gangs were deployed in elections. It happened during the Eastern Provincial Council election as well.

Author: TELO Media Team 1