The appointment of five new Governors have raised disturbing questions over President Maithripala Sirisena’s commitment to holding free and fair elections as all newly-appointed Governors have strong political involvements in the provinces to which they have been appointed.
The tradition – the unwritten rule – is that the Governor is from outside the province for which he is governor, especially when the appointee is an active politician. This is to avoid problems in conducting free and fair elections with a Governor wielding immense power to interfere and obstruct the work of the Election Commission during elections.
Two of the most glaringly offensive appointments involve those of M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, National List MP from Katankudi and State Minister of Highways and Road Development as Governor of Eastern Province, and that of Azath Salley, the flamboyant former UPFA Deputy Mayor of Colombo.
Hisbullah has resigned his MP and Deputy Minister posts effective 4 Jan, 2019, to be free to take up his new appointment as the Governor of Eastern Province where he has vested electoral interests. Salley, active in Colombo’s Municipal politics, is also in a position to interfere in elections within the Western Province.
Even the appointments of Sarath Ekanayake as Governor of North Central Province is questionable given that he was active as the Chief Minister of the neighbouring Central Province. Likewise, Peshala Jayarathna Bandara as Governor of North Western Province will wield influence in the North Central Province where he was Chief Minister.
It remains unclear as to how the Elections Commission will handle the elections that are due this year and the next with partisan Governors in charge of provinces where they are politically active.
“After showing a total lack of commitment to democracy, fairness and good governance, and to the Constitution since 26 October 2018. We naturally wonder what tricks President Maithripala Sirisena is up to now in making these appointments and what other tricks are in his bag for the remaining four Governorships?” an informed political source questioned, raising concerns over the President’s objectives.