Ceylon Today (17.04.2020) had a story headlined “Gen Election 2020. Could be held in May.” We all know that since this date has been suggested by government sources. What is alarming however are the following three extracted paragraphs from the body of the article:
“According to sources at the Election Commission (EC), with the approval of both Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Head of the National Operation Centre for the Prevention of the spread of the coronavirus, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, the postponed General Election could be held on the last week of May. […]
“The meeting is scheduled to be held on Monday, 20 April, with the participation of Dr. Jasinghe, Lieutenant General Silva, Acting IGP Chandana Wickremaratna, DIG Priyantha Weerasuriya and PMG Ranjith Ariyaratna. […]
“Meanwhile, the EC has undertaken the necessary steps to carry out the Election, and is planning to publicise the preference numbers of all candidates through the publication of a gazette notification.”
The high profile consultants are carefully chosen to arm-twist the Commission into agreeing to 28 May for elections. Because of the constitutional quorum of 3 out of 3, I state there was no meeting to take these momentous decisions choosing these consultants and what they will be consulted on, without my presence.
Moreover, by whom and on what basis were Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva and Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne chosen as consultants? Dr. Jasinghe is enmeshed in a fake-news controversy, spinning between COVID-19 and influenza. Subsequently, even WHO (where he is a Vice President) saw no need for face masks except by health professionals. However, his COVID Task Force was not allowing the public out without masks. Most alarming is Dr. Jasinghe’s statement in Ceylon Today (12.04.2020) that steps are being taken to lift the curfew by the end of the month – when most other doctors say it is too premature to decide. The masters of spin are at work.
And then why Lieutenant General Silva? He faces still unresolved charges by the UNHRC and many human rights organizations, under his command responsibility during the war, of massacring tens of thousands of Tamils. As a Tamil, I am scared of arguing with him on 20 April when we meet.
The Acting IGP Wickremaratne was warned by the Commission during the Presidential Elections on the impending problems at Chemmalai (Sinhalese colonized name Gurukanada) as a result of the police not serving a court order to desist from cremating a Buddhist monk on temple premises. He promised to act but did not. Violence flared up. Subsequently at the Commission I pointed out many election violations on which the police took no action. He then went through the motions of taking notes and promised to act. Half a year later, nothing.
Anything these three say on the Monday 20 April must be weighed carefully.
The selection of these experts is presumably by the Chairman and not by the Commission. When I went to the Commission on 1 April, the Chairman told me he is shutting the Commission premises down and to come for the meeting on 10 April. Again after that meeting he told me that he would also stay at home and for me to return for the next meeting on an as yet unspecified date. Subsequently I was informed by email on 16 April that the meeting would be on 20 April. This gave very little time for the medical examination and certification that I was free of COVID-19 symptoms. This was required prior to applying for the curfew pass.
On the basis of what I was informed, these decisions are unilateral or are owed to misreporting. The first alarm bell that the Commission was functioning despite what I had been told, came with Indian journalist P.K. Balachandran’s long headline on 13.04.2020:
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is Reportedly Keen to Hold Parliamentary Elections on May 28; Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya Expected to Make Important Announcement on April 20: Curfews Likely to be Lifted Completely by April 30 to Enable Election Campaigning.”
Ouch! I was by now used to getting my information from news media, rather than from the Commission. As the Chairman had asked me to check with him before writing anything, I called him but received no answer nor a return call.
The shocks keep coming: News First (15.04.2020) reported that “Keerthi Tennakoon, a former provincial governor had posted a remark saying ‘the date of the general election has been finalized’, and in response national election commission (NEC) chairman Mahinda Deshapriya had sarcastically responded saying ‘wonder who decided on the date’.”
I will know for sure, hopefully, at the meeting on Monday 20, 2020. However, it is clear that certain parties want us to think that elections will be held on the 28th May 2020 while saying the Election Commission will decide.
We need real experts to decide on when polls can be held as advised by the College of Community Physicians – Epidemiologists, public health experts and virologists/microbiologists and experts from other areas (economics, transport sector, finance etc.). The EC cannot play all these experts.