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Wayamba Governor lambastes EC for double standards

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… questions HRCSL silence over CC member’s controversial stand

By Shamindra Ferdinando

North Western Province Governor A. J. M. Muzammil yesterday (30) alleged that the Election Commission (EC) seemed to be brazenly selective in the implementation of relevant laws pertaining to the conducting of parliamentary polls scheduled for Aug 5.

Muzammil said that the EC owed the public an explanation as to how the EC allowed Constitutional Council member attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf to appear on the political stage whereas Governors were strongly advised against participating in the ongoing polls campaign.

In spite of the dissolution of parliament on March 2, 2020 to pave the way for parliamentary polls, the 10-member CC headed by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is staying put.

The EC, embroiled in a deepening controversy over the re-renaming of the Ape Jathika Peramuna as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) consists of Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Muzammil made available to The Island several letters he had received from the EC as well as Secretary to the President and his response to both EC and Secretary to the President to highlight the fact that the EC was following what he called a highly biased policy.

The EC had conveniently chosen to ignore Yusuf throwing his weight behind a civil society project meant to sabotage a high profile SLPP campaign seeking a two-thirds majority at the August 5 poll to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Muzammil said.

The former Colombo Mayor was referring to Yusuf calling for a common stand against the moves against the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of yahapalana administration.

Yusuf is on record as having said that the government would have conducted parliamentary polls regardless of the severe threat posed by the corona epidemic, if not for the timely intervention made by the EC in terms of the 19th Amendment.

Muzammil emphasized that the EC put off the scheduled polls in terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1981 not under the 19th Amendment as referred to by the CC member. The bottom line is that in case of a calamity even the Election Commissioner had the power to put off an election, Muzammil said, urging the EC not to play politics with the process.

Muzammil said that the controversy over a CC member taking a political stand took place close on the heels of EC member Prof. Hoole controversial comments in an interview conducted in Jaffna. The CC remained silent on the EC member’s conduct and the EC ignored a CC member taking sides in the ongoing political battle, when all of them should be strictly neutral. The civil society grouping Yusuf is aligned with campaigning against the SLPP and was canvassing for the UNP, its breakaway faction the SJB, the JVP and the TNA to save the 19th Amendment, Muzammil said.

Responding to another query, Muzammil said that the polls monitoring bodies seemed to be strangely silent on what was going on at the EC. The EC lost public credibility by turning a blind eye to the CC member declaring his intention to save the 19th Amendment by campaigning with a section of civil society.

A spokesperson for civil society grouping Freedom said that due to practical difficulties caused by the Corona crisis they couldn’t conduct public meetings since the one held on July 8 at the New Town hall. However, several media briefings were held since the inaugural meeting to highlight the need to save the 19th Amendment to prevent emergence of an authoritarian administration, the spokesperson said, adding that quite a useful webinar on economic issues, too, was conducted. A second webinar would be held today, Friday (31), with the participation of Jayadeva Uyangoda, Javid Yusuf and Suren Fernando. The Freedom spokesman said that they took a strong stand in respect of the 19th Amendment on a programme on TNL television recently.

Muzammil said that he didn’t find fault with the civil society for campaigning against the SLPP. The issue is why the EC allowed a CC member to be part of the campaign whereas Governors appointed by the President were told not to engage in any promotional activity.

Muzammil said that he received a letter from Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera that instructed him not to promote any candidate at public expense. The Wayamba Governor pointed out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) had issued several statements recently advising public servants et al, including those in the media emphasizing the importance of neutrality in the whole process. However, the HRCSL hadn’t commented on the CC member taking a political stand, Governor Muzammil said, adding that his position on the HRCSL was subjected to correction.

Yusuf, in a recent interview with The Island explained his rights as a member of the civil society as well as the CC, vowing he wouldn’t serve the CC at the expense of his primary role.

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EC: HC judgment won’t bar Premalal from contesting

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… former, present polls monitors differ

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (3) said that the recent Ratnapura High Court ruling, in respect of the 2015 January Kahawatte killing, wouldn’t bar SLPP candidate Premalal Jayasekera from contesting the parliamentary polls on August 5.

 Deshapriya said so when The Island asked for comment on the Ratnapura, High Court sentencing the SLPP candidate, along with two others, to death, over the killing of a person backing the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

At the time of the incident, Jayasekera held the post of Deputy Minister in the SLFP-led UPFA government.

Deshapriya said that there had never been a similar case before though there had been cases of elected lawmakers being unseated after being found guilty by courts.

 “We’ll discuss the issue at hand after the election and decide what to do,” Deshapriya said, adding that there was no change in the status quo as a result of the Ratnapura HC ruling.

The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

CMEV (Center for Monitoring Election Violence) spokesman Manjula Gajanayake told The Island that the top SLPP leadership should have considered all aspects before accommodating the former lawmaker on the Ratnapura nomination list. The SLPP could have easily avoided what Gajanayake called unnecessary complication by fielding another in place of Jayasekera, Gajanayake said. The polls monitor pointed out that the SLPP was aware that the Kahawatte case had been heard and the ruling was pending.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake said that the EC as well as political parties, especially those represented in parliament would have to address the issue.

Ratnapura District SLPP list comprises Vasudeva Nanayakkara (leader), Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Janaka Wakkumbura, John Seneviratne, Premalal Jayasekera, Dunesh Gankanda, Akila Ellawala, Sanee Rohana Kodituwakku,  Ranjith Bandara, Gamini Waleboda, Muditha Prishanthi, Hettiarachchige Lakshman Premaratne, Athula Kumara Rahubadda and Miyuru Bhashitha Liyanage. SLPP’s 14 candidates, include six former lawmakers. Of them, Dunesh Gankanda was elected from the Ratnapura district on the UNP ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015.

 The SLPP should blame itself for the crisis, Gajanayake said.

 On Feb 26, 2019 four suspects who had been charged with killing of an individual in Kahawatta during the 2015 presidential polls campaign were acquitted and released by the High Court of Ratnapura. However, Jayasekera and two others remained as accused.

 Executive Director of PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that at the time Jayasekera received nomination he hadn’t been found guilty by High Court of Ratnapura. Therefore, there couldn’t be an issue in voters exercising their franchise for Jayasekera tomorrow, Hettiarachchi said. However, the EC would have to seek legal advice before Jayasekera received oaths as a member of parliament. 

 The police arrested Jayasekera in the Beruwela police area while he was hiding after the high profile Kahawatte killing.

 CaFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections) head Ahamed Manas Makeen told The Island that the electorate should exercise their franchise for those who had clean records. Those who abused women and children or encouraged such practices, bribery and corruption and engaged or promoted violence or extremism shouldn’t be encouraged. Makeen said that the CaFFE stand was relevant to all districts not only Ratnapura where a candidate was sentenced to death.

 However Makeen’s predecessor, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in a letter dated Aug 2 addressed to the EC, on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said that in terms of the Article 89 of the Constitution a convicted murderer is automatically deprived of the right to exercise his franchise. Therefore, Jayasekera couldn’t vote at tomorrow’s general election, Tennakoon said, pointing out that in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution, a person disqualified to vote at the general election couldn’t contest. Tennakoon urged the EC to advice the Returning Officer of Ratnapura accordingly without delay.

 Keerthi functions as the SJB representative at the EC.

 SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said that they were watching the situation.

 

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Police initially believed in what Sampayo told them about Negombo Prison

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Image grabbed from video footage of Sampayo speaking to the media on Sunday at Kurunegala

by Norman Palihawadane

The Negombo Police, probing the alleged links between prison officials and inmates serving time there for drug offences, said that there had been numerous complaints about drug cartels operating from the Negombo Prison but former Superintendent (SP) of the Negombo Prison, Anuruddha Sampayo, always told them that there were no such rackets.

SP Sampayo was of the opinion that some elements were spreading such stories to tarnish the good name of officers attached to the Negombo prison.

Sampayo, who was evading arrest after being issued warrants, surrendered, on Sunday

Following directions of the Attorney General, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on July 22 obtained arrest warrants, from the Negombo Magistrate, on Sampayo and three other officials of the Negombo Prison .

Sampayo is the first suspect in the case filed over committing irregularities in the Negombo Prison. The three other suspects in the case – Chief Jailor of the Prison Upali Sarath Bandara, Second Tier Jailer Nishantha Senaratne and Jailer Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala – surrendered to the police earlier and they were remanded until Aug 04 by the court.

Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police Jaliya Senaratne said Sampayo had been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department after recording a statement.

 

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Expect post-election tax shocks if SLPP wins, warns JVP leader

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JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake flanked by NPP National List candidate Tuan K. Azoor and Kalutara District candidate Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe addressing a press conference held at the party headquarters on Sunday

 

By Saman Indrajith

The government is doing exactly the very obverse of what it had promised to win the presidential election, therefore people should not take the SLPP’s promises seriously, says the JVP.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said, on Sunday: “The SLPP came to power promising one law for all, but some persons are above the law. The SLPP has on its platform some characters who have Interpol red alerts against their names. They broke the quarantine laws at many places including the funeral of Minister Arumugam Thondaman. The law was bent to save the person who demolished an ancient royal pavilion at Kurunegala. That is how they maintain the rule of law.”

Dissanayake said that 6.9 million people had voted for the SLPP candidate at the last presidential polls, believing that he would not divest national assets. “There is still no clear statement that it would do away with the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with the US. People did not vote for the SLPP to sell off the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port. Trade Unions had to resort to strikes to obtain a promise from the Prime Minister but the problem is far from resolved. There has been a Cabinet paper to demarcate a 10-acre area covering land belonging to the Examinations Department at Malay Street, Police land in the Slave Island

and Air Force premises in adjacent area and to get it under the purview of the Urban Development Authority. We believe that their plan is to sell the entire land off in the near future.”

Dissanayake asked people to brace for massive tax hikes after Aug 5 elections because the SLPP would increase the prices of essential items to raise funds to keep the economy going. “There will be unprecedented price hikes. There will be tax increases. There is a need for a force that could fight against those moves. Only the JVP-led NPP is equal to that task. We’ll have to fight in and outside parliament. We therefore ask the people to cast their votes for the NPP and send as many as NPP members possible to the next parliament.”

NPP National List candidate Tuan K. Azoor and Kalutara District candidate Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe also addressed the press.

 

 

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