2 June, 2020

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Election Commission Drops Bombshell In Court: Poll Be Delayed Till August

The Elections Commission of Sri Lanka dropped a bombshell in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (20) when lawyers for the independent commission announced that the June 20th parliamentary poll could be delayed further, possibly even for more than two months.

Election Commissioners

The revelations were made during a third day of hearings into eight fundamental rights petitions challenging the June 20th polls date and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s refusal to reconvene Parliament despite the election delay extending beyond the constitutionally mandated three months for the new legislature to meet.

President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris appearing for the Chairman and another member of the Elections Commission told a five judge bench of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice that it would not be possible to hold the parliamentary poll on June 20th as previously gazetted.

He said the Commission fixed the new date for elections on the assumption that the Government announcement that the country would reopen on April 27th.

“It is now May 20th. 23 Districts in the country are under night curfew. Two districts are under full curfew,” Pieiris told the Court during his submissions.

The Commission informed the court that it would require a minimum of 9-11 weeks to prepare for an election after health authorities have given the Commission a green light to go ahead. With 10 days left in the month of May and curfew still in place in most districts, this could delay the election as far back as August 2020.

With the Elections Commission’s announcement in Court that the election would be further delayed, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran withdrew the petition filed by Charitha Gunaratne, since the only relief the petitioner had sought was a change in the date of election.

Every other petitioner in the 8 before Supreme Court are also challenging President Rajapaksa’s refusal to withdraw his proclamation dissolving Parliament or recall Parliament under Article 70 (7) of the Constitution.

Issuing a double whammy, the Commission also informed court that it had specifically requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to seek an expert opinion from the Supreme Court, when the Commissioners realised that the election could not be held ahead of the 2nd June 2020 deadline for a new Parliament to meet.

Pieris PC submitted that under Article 33.1 of the constitution, the President has a duty to the Commission to ensure the creation of proper conditions for conduct of a free and fair election.

“The Elections Commission is mindful that it is a creature of the constitution. That is why the Commission asked for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court,” Pieris explained.

“The Elections Commission was the first to flag the fact that there was a constitutional issue with its letter to the Secretary to the President. We cannot say there is no constitutional question now. But the Commission has not violated anyone’s rights,” said Asthika Devendra, who appeared as Counsel for EC Member S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole.

Devendra dealt another blow when he suggested that the nominations accepted from March 17-19 were invalid, because they had been accepted on days that had been gazetted as public holidays. “Initially the Commission received a media communication that the 17-19 were special holidays. It was only subsequently that the Commission became aware of the gazette declaring them public holidays. Public holidays are not working days. So now it appears that the nominations accepted on those days are invalid,” Devendra, counsel for Hoole told the Court.

The revelations made by the independent Elections Commission was a huge blow to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government which has tried to push through an election amidst the corona virus pandemic in order to avoid reconvening the Parliament that was dissolved in March 2020. The President faces the uphill challenge of keeping his tenuous alliance with the SLFP together to face the poll and a delay hurts this agenda, Government sources told Colombo Telegraph said.

It is learnt President Rajapaksa was incensed by the Elections Commission’s announcement that polls would be further delayed. Government lawyers have been instructed to make a strong case for how elections can be held even during pandemic conditions. Colombo Telegraph learns that the Government’s Counsel will reveal a “plan for elections” allegedly compiled by “health authorities” to the Supreme Court during their response during the next few days.

Director General Health Services Dr Anil Jaasinghe has also gone public to claim that the only positive COVID-19 cases have been reported from Quarantine Centres and within the Sri Lanka Navy over the last 20 days. But the claims are laughable public health experts warn because the Government is refusing to reveal testing data. It is unclear if the Government is doing regular testing on any citizens outside the quarantine centres or the badly affected armed forces. (By Chinthika de Silva) 

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Latest comments

  • 45
    2

    So at last EC has the guts to tell the truth based on reality. Gota and Mahinda dynasty cannot intimidate the EC, Parliament, and democracy of the country. At last, at least now voters should realize how silly it was to have elected Gotabaya a military man wh cant understand the needs of people and HR as President based on his false communal proganada.,

    • 39
      2

      Kuviyam,
      If I am the President or PM, I will immediately give up my President or PM and completely go out of politics. The announcement by EC tells one thing to Gota that militarisation will not not work all the time.

      • 7
        0

        The rulers appear to have underestimated the negative impact of the further extension of the Cufew in Colombo and Gampaha districts. There are no Covid19 Clusters other than the Navy cluster, which is under the control of the task force.

        Curfews have prevented vegetable farmers from selling their produce. Daily paid workers and temporary workers accounting for about 40% of the workforce are living on starvation diets. School Children do not receive their mid day meal. A surprise may be in store for the rulers at the General Election.

    • 33
      1

      Dear Kuviyam / May 21, 2020 ,
      .
      Nation’s fate is on their hand today – See, if the previous govt did not impletement EC and other commissions, how would it have been as of today ? How abusive these men have been ?
      .
      Why people with a little brain seem to be not getting this ? Are SRILANKENS fools by their birth ?
      .
      Why do MEDIA institutions work with them ? Knowing that they are wrong ? Why dont they raise questions regardless of the pressure on them ? What happened to SO CALLED INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM ?

      • 16
        2

        This is exactly what Prof. Hoole wanted at the very beginning. At the meeting among election commission members he proposed convening of parliament be postponed by three months to September and hold elections in August. Unfortunately chairman had promised the government that he will hold elections on 28th May, and tried to force it on others. When other two objected he had to drop it. Then due to some skewed logic, chairman proposed the 20th June date, probably to please Gota as it is his birthday. When Prof Hoole questioned as for the rationale of selecting that date he could not explain, but kept on forcing. Prof Hoole relented to it, because any date where parliament could not be summoned on 2nd June is good enough to cause a constitutional crisis. By this belated admission of being able to conduct elections only in August, Prof Hoole is vindicated for his stance.

    • 29
      1

      I think people should stand against srilanken media culture.
      :
      If they would do so only there will be an improvement in awareness of the people in the country.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEKLetVXtKw
      .

  • 5
    26

    This is not a bomb shell. Bombshell is the fact the cat came out of the bag.Now this is clear for the SC. The motive behind the “democracy” face mask is the “rejection of already called nominations”. SC will check on what basis the election date can be fixed. EC only has the responsibility to allow all candidates enough time for campaigning. They don’t have the authority to refuse to set the date counting from the day the Government opens the country for complete social and business activities. That will be done based on Health Authorities advice. So, when Government lawyers submit an alternative date for the election, EC have to argue what it is not possible on that day. Then SC has to determine whether there is public expectation to have the parliament reconvened for this additional period from 2 of June. Democracy is fulfilling majority public expectations. What would happen if SC decided to authorise Constitutional Committee to take financial and governance decisions until election is held? As I previously said the President is yet to violate the Constitution and the president can use consolidated fund until 3 months after an election. It that is the case until September 2, he can run the country without any issue. So the election can happen in August without reconvening the parliament.

    • 6
      0

      Dear Atu,
      .
      Most of what you say makes sense.
      .
      May I ask you to display more decency than cleverness, however?
      .
      1. “Democracy is fulfilling majority public expectations.”
      .
      2. “The motive . . . is the “rejection of already called nominations”.
      .
      Both statements are correct, but there also is something called fair play, and the Rules set out in the Constitution.
      .
      The system for electing the President of Sri Lanka works best if there is free and intelligent voting. In fact, in Sri Lanka, very few individuals vote qua individuals. They vote as herds – as directed by the dominant person in the herd.
      .
      I marked Three Preferences; neither the First nor the Second Preferences for the two who easily topped the list.
      .
      For the SLPP to have engineered the nomination of two UNP lists may have been clever strategy. To now insist that those nominations stand, however great the delay in voting, is not democracy.
      .
      I do not wish to vote for either UNP Group. I’m sick of them.
      .
      Please fine-tune my sincere comment without pettifogging.

      • 3
        5

        Dear Sinhala Man
        I respect your decent way of responding to the comment.
        Pleases read Daily FR article published yesterday under the heading of “Recovering from COVID-19 pandemic: What to expect”. This is written by an independent person. Look at the survey result. 88% people want to see current system continues and then conduct the election. Only 22% people wants the Parliament reconvened. Here, I am not making numbers, This is the reflection of current public sentiment. Give 5% plus or minus as error. Still the numbers favour for keep going as of now. This is the fair play. I don’t know whether existing law supports fair play. We are wasting our energy on individuals. We should allow whoever elected by people to do their job forgetting about their past, but criticising constructively their current policies and projects. I am sick of seeing people scouring old wounds, citizenship, war crimes, abductions, white vans etc. If anyone has evidences, go to the courts. If one thinks President is violating the constitution, there is SC for that. Lets follow the process but all better should stop become experts outside their expertise. I am not a friend of any politician.

        • 7
          1

          Atu:
          Few points to consider;
          1) When you mentioned the independent survey published on Daily FT, immediately my thought was how does one conduct a representative survey in a country like SriLanka! So I took a look at the article. I was surprised by the author’s claim that the survey was representative of all socio-economic demography and all 9 nine provinces based on the mere fact that the survey was conducted using an online questionnaire format!
          The questions comprising the survey itself were questionable; for example, the survey inquired about the satisfaction level of the ‘current opposition’ when the parliament had already been dissolved on March 2.
          The point here is that surveys can’t be reliable if not done properly and scientifically regardless of who did it. Even then, Data interpretations can differ.
          2) People are ‘scouring old wounds‘ such as war crimes, abductions, white vans etc. because those likely culpable of the crimes are at the helms of the current government. Those thirsting for justice are bound to keep reminding. Did those who have been long suspected of their probable culpability did do anything meaningful to resolve those ever burning allegations?
          3) It is incredibly naive to think that it’s just that easy and it’s just that safe for the witnesses to gather and file cases against these probable criminals in SriLanka for their crimes. Reality and the perspective of the victims of war crimes are far from that.
          What has come of the Prageeth Eknaligoda case after nearly 11 years? There are far too many examples like it.

          • 1
            7

            Sugandh

            I am a scientist. I know what I am talking about. Surveys are done using representative samples. Whole world does now using online and communication tools. When social media is so powerful, you can not question about the validity of results only because you don’t like it. When a survey result comes supporting your arguments, you all are happy to take those. You must be humble to accept realities. Unfortunately in the whole world, law requires evidences. This is also reality. So face it. Do you thinks examinations are fair? How many knowledgeable people failed at examinations but do well later in life through other avenues? Still we continue with exams system. Because the alternatives are unreliable and subjective. So, this is how the world works. So, accept it and move on.

            • 3
              1

              I am a scientist too. Scientists don’t just accept and move on until it’s scientifically justifiable. Scientists don’t go on a tangent to make their case sound right. Scientists understand the caveats and give those caveats due consideration.

  • 6
    1

    ” Pieris PC submitted that under Article 33.1 of the constitution, the President has a duty to the Commission to ensure the creation of proper conditions for conduct of a free and fair election. “ Other day, based on Sumanthiran PC’s argument that President it is in fault for the parliament not being able to meet on the stipulated date, we asked a question what was presidents responsibility beyond setting the date for the election & parliament sitting with in three months. We know Commission has to give 35 days for the candidates to campaign. We have seen a different answer that 70(5)-c says even eventually any date changes takes place, the three months barrier is not lift-able, so that implies a responsibility on president to ensure the parliament is able to meet. So president succumb for the fault of EC putting the Election date on June 20th, which is behind June 2nd. Today we see election Commission’s lawyer loaded the fault completely on president as he was responsible to create condition for conduct election under article 33.1. Now, from petitioners’ side, almost all knots are in place to tie the president to pole and Court Issue an order “recall the Proclamation!”.

  • 6
    1

    Let us say still something goes wrong and president is avoiding calling back the old parliament. It doesn’t appear that it is going to be an easy end. Today’s tentative announcement of the election going beyond August is serious issue. This is not going to just scare the opposition of them being kept out of parliament until that. If the election is not done before the parliament term limit time, they are going to blame president additionally that he used his early dismissal only to run a government without parliament and that is why he avoided calling backing the old parliament in time. He was insincere in dismissing parliament and it was not for people’s benefit. That could be a serious blame on president as he is violating constitution by that act, but now really nothing is he did was constitutionally illegal. Though Ranil is interested only saving Royal family, Vaalaiththodam doesn’t have that much interest on that. So, the Opposition is going to find more ways to get president back to SC.

  • 8
    2

    Government has no money. Loans have to be repaid. It is paying for Covid-19 shut off. Even if President finds a way to keep taking money from Consolidated Funds, by August, as earlier Dr. WAW explained, there will be no credit balance in the consolidated fund to take anything from it. IMF may not respond any quicker as it is in the Covid-19 quagmire. China doesn’t give loans to maintenance expenses. It is well clear that China is the one started force Lankawe as soon as this government came to power start the Homagama Stadium. That is going to be the next Hongmang white elephant Stadium. In the Western world there are many stadiums are going to be redundant soon. But China is forcing Lankawe to build a new one. There serious political opposition is emerging and the family is putting up drama to defuse any sincere opposition. To save their delayed election from this Stadium nightmare, Royals said ICC is paying for Stadium. But ICC denied. Without money to spend, after serious political opposition has emerged, if King conducts the election, he may not get the wanted 2/3. So President will have to be more innovate to conduct the election early to rob the 2/3.

  • 12
    0

    Elections must be held on time but not under impossible conditions. Both the EC and the Presidential Secretariat bureaucracy are at fault. In an important matter like this one wonders in hindsight is just an exchange of letters suffice? Provisions of article 33 (1) (d) of the constitution are clear. At least a discussion should have been held between the two parties outlining the difficulties involved. If so done, all the necessary ground realities could be documented. Now, not only the President’s Secretary but even PC Sumanthiran points fingers at the Commission. I believe (No Proof) that a sense of arrogance prevailed amongst the parties further fortifying that Sri Lanka is a failed state.

  • 9
    22

    There is no great problem in postponing the election until whenever it is fully safe to conduct it.
    /
    Though election can be held before the pandemic fully ends, it involves more expenditure and technical jugglary to organise an electrinic voting system. That is totally unncessary.
    /
    Only the sections who were rejected by the public in 2019 are creating noise that the deferral of the election (due to this unforeseen problem of the pendamic) is destroying our democracy. The worst bullshit of all times!
    /
    An election to secure peoples’ right to endorse the government’s management of the pandemic and future work program will be duly conducted when things settle down.The no issue will be put to rest by the SC.
    /
    So go back to sleep Sajith, Paikiyasothy and Sunethra, and Sumanthiran.

    • 11
      1

      Those BP make every effort to mislead the nation should be very clear, that srilanken govt has not been able to flatten the curve regarding the containment of COVID-19 spread…
      .
      It is no right them to OVERESTIMATE the nature of lanken situation with that South Korea who belong to the developed world today.
      :#
      BpS should finally see in mirror to judge who we really. We are an another HUNGRY nation that would not be able to survive without the aids, donations and grants of the developed world. Why should we be ungrateful not to see it right right.. call a spade a spade is need of the hour.

    • 14
      1

      This guy Helios true to his name must be seeing the sun rising from the south across his rear. Is it possible to keep “liking” your own comments? I remember him contesting from Thimbirigasyaya some time ago. Weird guy. Known to write nonsense and quaint sounding gibberish. But no offence meant.

    • 4
      0

      Helios,
      .
      Please see my comment addressed to Atu, above, on this same page, in which I have stated this:
      .
      “For the SLPP to have engineered the nomination of two UNP lists may have been clever strategy. To now insist that those nominations stand, however great the delay in voting, is not democracy.”
      .
      Also, please see SJ’s comment:
      .
      H
      You should read carefully.
      The young lady is one H’s daughter and therefore his brother H’s niece.
      .
      That is sufficient, but if you want all the unnecessary details (which I’m well known to provide!) look at my FOUR PART comment just above it.
      .
      Those to be found here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/hooles-car-searched-at-every-checkpoint-pro-gota-newspaper-makes-false-claims-about-daughters-quarantine/comment-page-1/#comment-2345592

  • 16
    2

    Hope not that Jamal Khashogi style misterious murder would end up the fate of the EC members. This is not impossible in today s backdrop when recalling the brutal past prior to 2015 in this paradise under Rajapakshes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJ44spUo8Uk

    So long SLAVEs would not care about human rights but self-adulation of RAJAPKASHEs, everything is possible. Leaders repeat their high crimes so long people would stay GAPING round the clock.

    Let me give you some examples of high crimes prior to 2015 (not a single murder of that sort were reported during good goverannce, whoever whatever being said and done.)

    1)Lasanth Wickramatunge – most fearless editor of SUNDAY LEADER NEWS PAPER was brutally murdered on broad day light – the case was also filed in CA court by the LW s daughter alleging current president GOTABALYA to have directly involved in that murder

  • 14
    2

    TO BE CONTD:
    :
    3) Three dozens of unarmed prisoners in Welikada were gunned down by the order of Gotabaya – no nothing yet about the investigations#-

    4) Federica Janzi, successor Editor of SUNDAY LEADER PAPER was threatened and she left the country for the US and now living there with her kids. This threat was directly made by CURRENT president Gotabaya, there are whole lot of videos on this and her story in the web.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIe6yVWiKn8

  • 16
    3

    Whats new in Lanka ????? Didnt I say our government had an expiry date for the Virus (land like no other, must be the first to have deadline for the virus) and Health authority is working hard to meet the dead line, where as EC seems not willing to play game for now. GAME ON. Rest is up to SC, who is supposedly neutral referee. Question is how reliable are the numbers released by our health authority, which is working 24/7 to conduct election first and control Covid later. Who is providing the stats for health authority ??? military officials who are told they are “fighting a war”. Rest are denied of any access to those reports and if any right minded person questions, he/she will be punished by law for obstructing relief work ???? Guys from now every event , big or small will be stage managed by military , who will mange it like “fighting a war”. So just sit, relax and enjoy the game.

  • 16
    3

    To add to my comment counsel for PBJ says there is no evidence or expert health opinion. Of course when you have hand picked health authority, and military as health sec, military in front line (not health workers), GMOA to support, laws to prevent from questioning or asking for information, Shavendra stage managing “as in war”, there is no chance for any evidence. We saw that in Zero Casualty too. Truth is from day one Gotha had a plan in place and it was all about elections first and Covid next. Just like in Post Easter management (MS and Rajapaksas).

  • 12
    1

    The delay in restoring normality one week after all the Covid clusters other than the Navy has resulted in the postponement of the elections. In the meantime, dengue fever and other negative factors arising from the lockdown are increasing. Daily paid workers accounting for over 25% of the population unemployed during this period, resuscitating the economy and even controlling the negative GDP growth will be a Herculean task.

  • 10
    1

    My Dear Supreme Court Judges.

    Please I beg of you that you sway your honourable considerations in favour of the strong arguments adduced in establishing the breach of the constitutional provisions by the Executive and NOT in favour of receiving favours from the Executive.

    God Bless Sri Lanka

  • 12
    0

    It is a welcome stand taken by the EC.
    I am amused, however, by the fluctuation of our assessment of the EC with the compatibility of any of its decisions with our wishes.
    Now we seem to have only nice words.

  • 1
    14

    It should be renamed as elections postponing commission EPC. Wonder how much tax payers money is wasted to keep this worthless commission functioning. BTW why Hoole is still in the commission. He filed a fundamental rights petition against holding an election while being a member of the EC. He argued that holding the general election was a violation of his human rights. Someone like that is unfit to be in the commission anymore. Appoint a person who is willing to carry out the main duty of the EC without any hesitation, that is to hold elections. EC or it’s members have absolutely no right to challenge the legality of an election.

    • 3
      0

      PART ONE
      .
      Dear Andare2.0,
      .
      You are being unfair. The SLPP under Gota tried to manipulate their way to a two-thirds majority, but they under-estimated the world-wide impact that this stubborn little virus has been displaying.
      .
      Gota thought that his guns, given to his “tri-force personnel”, could shoot the fellows down, the same way he indiscriminately shot down “terrorists and innocent civilians” alike.
      .
      True, the Constitution allowed him to dissolve Parliament after four-and-a-half years, but natural justice (I’m no lawyer, so I have to argue from “First-Principles”) requires such measures to be adopted when there is hardly any alternative.
      .

    • 4
      0

      PART TWO
      .
      Gota tried to outsmart the UNP
      by manipulating two groups within that Party to nominate candidates, thus dividing the only other group that seemed likely to win Parliamentary seats in Sinhalese areas.. Now, if the Supreme Court acts honestly, they must order that Parliament be re-summoned. In that case there will have to be fresh nominations.
      .
      I’m no supporter of the UNP. I see one other person who is greatly to blame: Ranil Wickremasinghe. It is not years ago, but decades ago, that he should have allowed alternative leaders to emerge in his Party. In Sri Lanka, it looks as though only dynasties are allowed to thrive. Ranasinghe Premadasa broke the mould, but now we have his son!

    • 4
      0

      Dear Andare,
      .
      Yours reminded me those ANDERE tales that we learnt in our childhood.

      If you would raise the question why Prof. Hoole to continue in EC in the same time, you should raise the set of following questions, if I assume you to be healthy minded as of your writing.

      1) Mahinda Deshapriya – and his stupid and violent nature is public secret to entire world. He even releases FACE BOOK comments but insisting to be a senior experienced official in lanken public service – normally, he should not have right to exchange them on FB forgetting EC related issues are his personal ones. He is there to represent that body protecting srilaken citizen rights.
      .
      2)Then you should raise the question, as to why EC allowed Nandasena Rajapakshe aka GOTLER to be a nominee to that Presidential Election, with that loads of high crime allegations – if he would further disgree, then JULIAMPITIYA amaraya or WELE SUDA or the like too should have the same right to be able to become easy NOMINEES for any elections.
      :
      3) In a civilized world, any one with ALLEGED crime records would not have the chance to get elected by its citizens – if happened so, that would beCOME social revolution – because that would be considered as right if the people in such country would stand on their – ” upside down mode” only. If you would stand on your head, you would see almost everything other way around.

      4) So I question, is there any sense of your question asking why not Prof. Hoole to continue in EC ? In contrary to that, we should start respecting him to have work bold standing against the violations of that body by Mahinda Deshapriya sofar.

  • 5
    0

    Gota will now resort to dictatorial means on the pretext of his executive powers. Now Government cannot function and countries will never lend and/or assist and will never have any financial dealings. Gota should realize military ind is not the answer for civil matters. It won’t be a surprise if there are rebellions from all four quarters.

    • 4
      0

      Please, AYATHURAY RAJASINGAM,
      .
      I don’t want rebellions from any quarters; nor do you, I guess.
      .
      Gota must understand that nobody wants it – not even he.
      .
      However, if you display no scruples, it is going to be inevitable. Few of the “clever guys” have looked hard and unwaveringly at the mire in which the economy is stuck. The starvation that must have enervated the resistance of the most vulnerable.
      .
      We do not wish to have any of this. The choice is Gota’s.
      .

      • 5
        0

        Sinhala_Man,
        When I mentioned ‘Rebellion’, it is not the Tamil groups, but from all sections of the community. When every one starves, you know what happened in France – the French Revolution. Because of the blind policies of Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka is cornered and China is there to dictate terms and no one knows the reaction of India when the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord is still in force. I feel very sorry for the Sri Lankans in general. I believe that the two groups in the UNP along with the TULF and the JVP including some of the clerics will be united. This is a precarious situation and is inevitable. I am sorry to mention that Gota is relying on Military Officers but he failed to realize that guns and canons cannot produce what the citizens expect.

        • 4
          0

          Dear AYATHURAY RAJASINGAM,
          .
          Oh, I knew you meant all the people in our country.
          .
          I’m not a racist!
          .
          I don’t blame you for fearing that – examine my comments. Yes, racism is all too common, especially among the most vociferous.
          .
          But there are also many guys who do not subscribe to communalism.

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