29 September, 2020

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Confidence In The Electoral System: The Election Commission, The Attorney General & The Police

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Perhaps the most important election, the only competition for this title being from Parliamentary Elections, is round the corner. How well the result reflects the people’s will depends on the free exercise of the people’s franchise, and that depends on how well the Election Commission, the Attorney General, and the Police do their job. The signs are not good.

During the 2015 elections a Norwegian Tamil, doing illegal work transporting election material in a government vehicle, was caught with a truckful of illegal notices. He was arrested by the police. Subsequently an MP intervened with the Attorney General writing the letter shown here. It is a brazen attempt to divert the course of the law, with a shamelessness that characterizes everything Sri Lankan. The man was out in no time. The same MP, by 2018 a state minister, was photographed by me campaigning from a temple during the local government elections. If convicted it meant loss of political rights. But no prosecution. Every time I ask, I am promised follow up but nothing happens. The Election Commission seems unable to call powerful politicians to account.

Ministerial letter pleading for an Arrestee

The Norwegian is now back. He had written a scurrilous piece and allegedly demanded payment for removing it from his website. He was arrested again and was out on bail. Reports in Jaffna say he fled bail, returned for his daughter’s coming of age ceremony in Kilinochchi, and was rearrested. His work is important to politicians and it is said that he will soon work for a politician’s re-election.

It is difficult to trust our Attorneys General, who often look to appointments on the Supreme Court and are reluctant to charge politicians and their protégés. This is well known from the cases that were promised prosecution in 2015 and are now being dusted off shelves because a different government may be in place soon. In a situation on 24 Sept., I found the Attorney General claiming to represent me in the Embilipitiya case when I had given my proxy to a private lawyer whom I trusted. What would have been said in my name I do not know; nor do I know in how many cases I have been represented without my knowledge and proxy.

Worse is the ongoing Neeraviyadi Pillaiyar Temple saga that challenges our faith in the police. The Pillaiyar temple is situated in Chemmalai in the Mullaitivu District. A Buddhist monk by the name of Kolampe Methalangathara Thero has erected a Buddhist temple with state aid on the Hindu Pillaiyar Temple premises. While further construction is restrained by court, Kolampe Thero lived in the temple he had erected while the court proceedings continued. The monk died of cancer a few days ago in Colombo. On Saturday (21 Sept.) plans were afoot by his followers to cremate his remains within the compound of the temple. 

On 21 Sept. late evening I reported these developments to the Election Commission. As told to me by Chairman Deshapriya, he had informed the IGP who had said he did not know of this problem and promised that he would keep an eye. In contrast, MP Charles Nirmalanathan says he had reported it to the relevant DIG on Saturday morning itself and he had promised to alert the IGP. 

Hindus of the area went to the Acting Magistrate Sutharsan who gave an interim order around 1 am Sunday staying cremation till Monday by when the regular Magistrate and District Judge Lenin Kumar would examine the issues and give a ruling. Lenin, or his predecessor, had already issued stay orders in the old ongoing case saying no new construction should take place and nothing should be done at the temple violating religious sensibilities.

However, violating the court order, busloads of Sinhalese moved onto temple premises on Sunday. The police, army, and navy moved onto the premises too, ostensibly to keep the peace. When it was pointed out to the police that there is a court order, they claimed not to know Tamil – the Constitutional language of administration in the North, but only the armed forces do not seem to know this – so in reality to turn a blind eye and aid those planning to engage in this sacrilege in Hindu Law.

The Police: Protecting Law Violators?

By 10 or 11 AM Monday, the permanent Magistrate issued an order that there must be no cremation on or near temple premises and the cremation must be done crossing the Army Camp close to the temple and going further beyond to the beach.

By then Gnanasara Thero (who had been in jail for contempt of court for disturbing proceedings in trials against those charged with disappearing Prageeth Eknaligoda and then released by President Sirisena on pardon) had also come with a further 15-20 Sinhalese. A monk with him, when reminded of the court order, retorted “Don’t you know this is a Buddhist country where precedence is for Buddhism?” (The Election Commission is yet to act on a complaint that the UNP promised Rs. 500 milion on Buddhist temples during the 2018 elections. This complaint by former MP Sivajilingam has not even had a preliminary investigation. This was on the grounds that Buddhism has a special place so promising money for Buddhism during elections might be all right ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

Readying the funeral pyre against the Law

Within 30 minutes of the court order the pyre was lit, a mere 100 m from the Hindu temple. The Daily Mirror (24 Sept.) seemed to excuse the court order violators saying there had been no time to serve the orders. Wrong! There already was an order from Saturday saying it would be superseded by a new order on Monday. If no new order was served, then they had to abide by the old order. Besides, lawyers for both parties were in court. That news report is an excuse for Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism.

Some Tamils who urged the police to ensure that the court order is not breached were assaulted by the Sinhalese while the armed forces and police looked on – so I ask again who were they there to protect? Four university students were also hammered so badly that two were admitted to hospital. As a result, more students came into the area to protest, making an observer remark that with students entering the scene, the tensions will not abate.

Sure enough, a huge demonstration began in Mullaitivu, shutting down shops and business establishments. Without precedent, the GA, Ms. Rupavathi Ketheeswaran, who is the highest ranking government official in Mullativu, some District Secretaries, and an Acting Magistrate also joined the demonstration because the State seemed to have collapsed with no respect for the law by the police and armed forces. If the IGP had a little sense of prudence and of urgency when a real threat of breakdown was obvious to most, this further estrangement of law abiding folk from the State would not have happened. The forces of law and order fiddled like Nero, while a people they did not care about were burnt. All protections of the law, order, & justice had been taken away from them.

In other articles, I have documented how the police reduce charges against politicians, probably taking money or under political pressure. Sometimes even the Magistrates do not seem above suspicion as indicated by a Judicial Service Commission inquiry that concluded that a magistrate issued orders without reading the law.

Our country is bordering on moral bankruptcy. Our best institutions, including the press, seem to be in the hands of Sinhalese chauvinism.

The upcoming Presidential Elections on 16 November might be our last chance to bring us back from the brink (if we are not already over the precipice). The Election Commission is vested with many powers to halt the downward slide. It must use those powers wisely and honestly, without fear or favor, to make this an honest election with no privileges to those who hold power, whether political or financial. We need a government by persons who care for the people and not intent on enriching themselves while averting justice and staying out of jail.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    3

    Thank you Dr. Hoole for covering the Mullaitivu desecration and sheer belligerence demonstrated yesterday.

  • 9
    3

    I appreciate all that you are doing to ensure that the polling and the counting get done properly.
    .
    Please keep up the good work. I will read more carefully and alertly, and hopefully, come back to add to this comment.

  • 3
    14

    If Tamilians have no faith in the election process, do not vote.

    • 9
      1

      GATAM

      “If Tamilians have no faith in the election process, do not vote.”

      Good idea.
      Thanks for your great thinking.
      Even if they vote our regular typist soma(n) and the warmonger Dayan believe Tamil votes should not count towards the final election result. Therefore it effectively does not matter whether the Tamils vote or abstained.

      You should think further and advise the state to disenfranchise the entire Tamils from voting.

      • 1
        8

        NV

        This is a Sinhala Only election. Tamils should be shameless to vote at a Sinhala Only election.

        • 4
          0

          Sinhala only elections should not be held with tax payer Money. Because tax payers are Tamils too. So have this election with Sinhala ONLY money or SINHA LE money

          • 0
            0

            Dear Roman Leslie.
            .
            Very sadly I must agree with you. Wo OUGHT all to be equal human beings who have the same rights and duties as Sri Lankan citizens.
            .
            Unfortunately, that is not the case. The verb in that sentence is the simple “is” – not “seems to be”. The anonymous coward GATAM has just told us that. I’m not anonymous, really. I regularly reveal my name, and, since I have written a few articles, my picture as well.
            .
            Dear “Good Sense” and “K.Anaga”, I have given likes to all your comments. I don’t think that I’ve contradicted myself doing that. There is truth in all that both of you have said.
            .
            This must now be the case: Jeevan Hoole’s life is at stake. They are after him. I saw some newspaper report today (can’t look for it now) that states that there is somebody inside the Elections Commission who is trying to sabotage Gota’s Election campaign. It is some SLPP lawyer.
            .
            Professor Hoole must be very careful. We just can’t have good men like him killed by gunmen. This must now be considered a real possibility.
            .

        • 2
          0

          GATAM

          Very well, when are you proposing to have Tamil only, Muslims only, Hindu only, Christians only, ……………… Vedda only, Sangha only, …. elections?

          Dayan will be very happy to have you as his first b***s carrier.

  • 5
    10

    Prof. Hoole is a man known for dotting every i and crossing every t without fail. Though his specialty is Engineering, Electrical I presume, he has mastered on other subjects as well and is contributing well in the process of Electioneering. But I appeal that he should not display being a Jack of all trades and Master of None. As long as he talks about Electioneering or Engineering and very correctly I can have no problems. But his attempts to relate matters outside his purview in the garb of electioneering is demeaning his standing in society. As I have commented in CT before the issue at hand regarding the cremation of a Buddhist priest has to be dealt very carefully and by those knowledgeable with authority without fear or favor, if not it can lead to disturbances. It reminds me of the Ayodhya Temple and Babri Mosque affair in India invoking the jurisdiction of the Courts of India. As a country we have had a number of intolerable racial and religious tensions and rabble rousing at this stage by anyone is not in the interest of this country. The most appropriate would be the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry headed by senior judges to look into the matter inside out.

    • 12
      3

      Good Sense!
      You appear to have lost your Good Sense. You seem to think that the comments from an individual should be consistent with the position one holds. If one is an engineer he must comment only on engineering matters, a doctor should comment only medical matters, a lawyer should comment only on legal matters and so on. According to you, they have no right to comment on general matters for the welfare of the nation. The damage has been done and what is the use of a commission now. The law has to take its own course and, arrest those who have violated the court order quickly and efficiently.
      Unfortunately, our law keepers are like Ass Keepers. They wouldn’t like to tie down the ass for fear of ‘hind leg kicks’ from the ass owners- the government.
      Justice denied is Justice delayed.

      • 1
        3

        I have not lost my good sense in saying what I have to say when the other camp makes a serious allegation that the whole court proceedings in that locality are racially biased. Do you want another devastating July 1983? I don’t. We as a country have had enough of divisive issues. As for Prof Hoole I believe he could said what he wanted in a different heading instead of mixing it with elections and making a malay pickle out of his dissertation. Ananga! you should know that in the Ayodhya Temple matter what went along finally is archeological evidence. It is reported that the Archeology boss here states something that you don’t want to here. I maintain that the best solution is a Commission of Inquiry to look into the facts in detail rather than piecemeal directives which only foment hatred.

    • 9
      0

      What do you say about not complying with the Courts Order by Gnanasara and other monks and their threatening behaviour including assaults on Tamil lawyers and local Hindus. Certainly we need not have a Commission to condemn these actions. Furthermore how many Commissions we have had in this country. What were the results ? Nothing. Aren’t you fed up with the idea of appointing a Commission?

      • 2
        2

        Not complying with court orders is a serious issue and that has to be dealt with contempt of court as was done earlier with Gnanasara and for that you don’t need a Commission of Inquiry. There are other related matters that are at stake which can inflame the country. By narrowing the focus we only breed a 1000 Gnanasaras. I am sure you don’t want that just as much as I don’t want that. The aforesaid related matters must be addressed through a Commission of Inquiry.

  • 10
    0

    Hoole, what we know about Deshapriya, Dilrukshi,our politicians, yet another inquiry commission formed by MS to investigate Easter (anyone at their wimp can form an inquiry commission for political reasons and remember thousands of family members / victims are still in search of answers and politicians are exploiting it for their own fun ) breaking the court order in cremation fracas are clear indications how far we have failed as a nation.People here are in denial, and still want to believe the dysfunctional system is still intact.

  • 11
    1

    Thank you Ratnajeevan for your excellent analysis.
    As an Elections Commissioner, you have a critical role to play in the future of the Nation in the coming weeks.
    A person who has been nominated by a leading political party appears to have been registered as a voter in the past Presidential Elections using a fraudulent NIC. He has also participated in the election campaign.
    The same person is publicly displaying an Oath of Renunciation of his overseas Citizenship with a ‘APPROVED’ stamp on it.
    That ‘Approval’, dear Ratnajivan, is not an Approval of Renunciation but an approval of the OATH.
    The OATH only communicates an INTENTION to renounce citizenship.
    The ACCEPTANCE of the INTENTION to renounce citizenship should be communicated by the Agency which awarded overseas Citizenship to this person in the first instance.
    Ratnajivan, hope you will bear this in mind when the EC receives nomination in the next few weeks and please do act as you did when someone in high office violated the Constitution and dissolved parliament, late last year.

  • 1
    11

    “Tamil – the Constitutional language of administration in the North” – WTF?

    • 10
      1

      Suren

      ” WTF?”

      WTF is that?

  • 2
    16

    How can a Tamil racist like Hoole be allowed to be part of the Sri Lankan Election Commission?? He must be kicked out forthwith.

    • 9
      1

      Dear Mako,

      So is it Para( according to Amarasiri) Sinhele Election Commission?

    • 4
      1

      Mako,

      I do not think Dr Hole is a Tamil racist. Besides, he has a lovely dog.

  • 3
    17

    Mr Hoole, you are not authorised to write such bullshit being a member of the esteemed body the Electoral Commission. Resign now before your are expelled.

    • 11
      1

      Soma Kuruneru

      “Mr Hoole, you are not authorised to write such bullshit being a member of the esteemed body the Electoral Commission.”

      On what basis or rule?

    • 9
      0

      There is a Tamil saying- “Kaluthaiku Theriumo Katpura Vasanai”. The meaning is: Will a donkey appreciate the smell of camphor. The nearest one in Sinhala is “Ballata Mokkatathe Buruage Vade. So please keep of Soma Kuruneru.

      • 1
        0

        Dear Anaga,

        Who is Dog and who is Donkey here?

    • 8
      0

      Dear SK,
      “Resign now before your are expelled” . Then you can do whatever you like inside the closed door. Is it the plan?

  • 12
    0

    Prof Hoole, but you are referring to Sri Lanka a nation lost its bearings and what else one could expect from. This wilderNess. Your argument holds for a country but not to this primitive, rowdy state run by crazy monks and racist Police force that is also frightened to displease the goons. Honest officers are punished. Honest judges are kicked out. Sane people are silenced. This is not a country at all to begin with. No logic or democrasy could work.there. Only violence and thuggery is the order of the day.

  • 1
    13

    Ganjapani,
    Are you saying GR’s nomination will be rejected by EC when he presents his papers?
    Sir, there will be a bloodbath of Herculean proportions if that happens.

  • 9
    1

    That is right! Abuse and vilify a person if you are not in possession of the facts and/ or you do dot have the intellectual capacity to meet his arguments fairly and squarely.

  • 9
    0

    Estate Labourer, Lankans have never heard the word “Whistle Blower”, because it is not in their dictionary. There is nothing esteemed about Lanka , it is just another failed nation.

  • 9
    0

    Dear Andrada,
    .
    What’s the point in having laws and regulations if they cannot be enforced.
    .
    GR’s papers must be accepted if they are in order; if they are not, they must surely be rejected.
    .
    We have had enough bloodbaths in this country. Are you, Andrada, actually threatening us with another if Gota’s papers are rejected because they are not in oder?
    .
    Andrada, I’m not a baby – in fact, I’m slightly older than Gota. I’ve never been outside Asia – been abroad twice for employment. So as for Gota, it looks as though he will either live in America as a citizen of that country, or live here, after these next few weeks are over, as a guy who will preside over us all.
    .
    Now, this, mind you, is before even nomination. What chance can there be of having a fair election if this is the way it is going to be conducted?

    • 1
      0

      Please see what one of the doughtiest of SLFPers (Kumara Welgama) has to say about this:
      .
      You may have to google for this significant speech – if it is moderated out.
      .
      Here’s hoping it’ll be allowed in, to keep CT user-friendly:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss94I-fOCQE

  • 8
    0

    Courts and police to give employment only.

  • 2
    0

    Prof; Ratnajeevan.
    I have a dirty feeling that this is just a start to create unsettled conditions in areas where there is a substantial Tamil voting population.Conditions could be created, like in previous elections to prevent voting or use fear to keep voters away from the polling booths.
    Naturally, the candidate who will benefit by this is none other than Gota!
    In 2005, MaRa won the election by bribing the LTTE ;
    This time around there could be a repeat with a different scenario!

  • 2
    0

    Plato you are 100% right. These thugs using yellow robed thugs to create a situation to win the election. This is the strategy by the Sinhala Parangiyas from south and they will do anything.

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