Basil Rajapaksa has officially informed the Elections Commission that he was not a member and did not hold any positions in any political party, the Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told political party leaders at a meeting on Tuesday (21).
The political leaders grilled the Commission about why it was permitting the national organiser of the ruling party to run a government task force that is distributing relief for people affected by the crisis during an election season.
Basil Rajapaksa as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s special envoy was appointed as chairman of the Presidential Task Force to direct, coordinate and monitor the delivery of continuous services for the sustenance of overall community life in Sri Lanka in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the SLFP-SLPP alliance was registered in February 2020 Basil Rajapaksa was announced as the General Secretary of the Alliance. He has also been consistently referred to as the national organizer of the SLPP in countless media reports – and it is a title he has never publicly refuted.
“Which person in this country is willing to believe this statement? Basil Rajapaksa is the national organizer of the SLPP and the General Secretary for the SLFP-SLPP alliance as well” said Anura Kumara Dissanayake who participated in the meeting.
Dissanayake was being interviewed by the Sirasa network show Ilakkaya when he made the revelation.
The Government had completely politicized the virus. “They are using this grave crisis to further their narrow political agendas,” the JVP leader slammed the Government.
Political observers expressed outrage of the Commission’s acceptance of Basil Rajapaksa’s claim and failure to hold the Government accountable for abusing state resources for political gain ahead of a major election. The same Commission had been almost draconian in how it acted to stop the UNP from abusing state resources during elections held when the Yahapalanaya regime was in power.
“It is as if the Election Commission is a bunch of babies. Are they living in outer-space? Do they not know that Basil is a key mover in the SLPP activities? Do they not know that Basil ran the SLPP campaign at the last election? Are they willing to accept this fabrication at face value just because he says so and not take action against the Government abusing state resources to favour their constituencies during an election?” a political observer noted.
The criticism of the Task Force comes as opposition parties raised the alarm that the Government was using Covid-19 relief and the Rs 5000 relief for daily wage earners as election handouts. UNP MP Ajith P. Perera participating in another talk show on Tuesday night said the Government was discriminating against minority communities in its distribution of COVID-19 aid.
Perera said that impoverished Muslim families in the Kalutara District were being deliberately left out of the relief distribution by grama sevakas and other officials aligned to the Government. “It is well known that these Muslim suburbs of Kalutara voted overwhelmingly against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the November election. They are being punished for it now” he said.
On Illakkaya, JVP Leader Dissanayake also raised serious questions about how the Elections Commission went ahead and declared 20th June election day.
“We asked them, which experts did you consult – they responded that they spoke to the DG health services, the security forces top brass and the postal department officials. We asked them, what were their recommendations? Did they believe this could be managed sufficiently? The EC chairman responded that none of them had been able to give a certain answer about this. So who are we to believe?” he queried.
The Government’s move to force an end to the curfew and restrictions on daily life was solely aimed at creating a superficial normalcy that would enable them to force the Commission’s hand to hold elections early.
Last week the Silumina newspaper said “Corona bids adieu”. Lankadeepa said “Corona is over”. The Health Minister claimed that by the 19th of April the crisis will end. And Thilanga Sumathipala claimed that even though 107 people had died from dengue in 2019 we still held elections. With dengue, mosquitoes are the carriers. With corona virus, human beings are the carriers. Mosquitoes don’t campaign in elections and go to polling booths” Dissanayake charged.
This whole enactment was about holding the elections on the Government’s schedule he said pointing to the current regime’s insatiable power lust.
“The public needs to ask the question – on whose recommendation did the Government decide to lift the curfew? Which specialist told them it was safe to do this?” The President cannot make arbitrary decisions when people’s lives are in danger,” the JVP Leader said.
Dissanayake said he had also asked the Elections Commission whether the June 20th election date was final. The Commission had replied that was liable to change depending on how the situation evolved. The JVP Leader said he had then questioned the EC Chairman when the evaluation would be performed since the Commission had announced that it would begin to hand out preference numbers to candidates on May 4, 2020. Political parties had protested against this and insisted that the evaluation be completed about whether the election could be held on June 20 before candidate numbers are officially assigned.
The EC, Dissanayake said has to make its decision based on two key factors. The first is whether the election would be free and fair and conducted in a level playing field. The second factor was whether the officials conducting the election and voters would have to put their lives in danger during the vote.
Watch the full interview with the JVP Leader here: