The Election Commission is charged with the important task of conducting the elections upholding the law. To open the floodgates of electoral corruption, what better way than to break up the unity of the Commission. So, according to Ratnajeevan Hoole,
Prof. GL Peiris has accused the Commission of harbouring a saboteur. Dayasiri Jayasekera, when his party was caught having an illegal office in the Kachcheri, took umbrage and threatened to remove Prof. Hoole from the Commission as soon as the new Parliament is elected. When MP Angajan Ramanathan and Kachcheri officials including the GA were investigated for diverting refugee relief from the public to give as their own donations, Prof. Hoole was accused of working for the TNA. Several news articles accused him and Deputy Elections Commissioner A. Achchuthan of working for the re-election of the TNA’s M.A. Sumanthiran.
It was like water off a duck’s back as the Commission, determined to do its duty, interdicted unlawful appointments (called treating in an election context) and transfers contrary to the law. The SLPP’s agents then escalated their insidious campaign. When Hoole’s daughter came from the UK, finished her quarantine and came out with a certificate from Army Commander Shavendra Silva and Dr. Anil Jasinghe saying she had finished her quarantine requirements, persons at the Election Commission claimed she had come skipping her quarantine. She, Prof. Hoole, his son and their driver had to go into quarantine they insisted. The Commission was like a mob – in fact like the mob attacking Tamils that ran from Colombo upon hearing the rumour in July 1983 that the Tigers had come into Colombo. It recalled to mind the Jesuit Paul Casperz’s description that “the Sinhalese are by nature one of the friendliest people in the world but they can be easily whipped up into hatred.” (Vide Sarvan, Public Writings on Sri Lanka, Volume 2, chapter titled ‘Paul Caspersz: Jesuit socialist’). Many who ran upon seeing him as Hoole says were his good friends but now abandoned him like fleas jumping off a putrefying dog’s cadaver.
The army was given Hoole’s number plates and they were checked everywhere on their way to Jaffna. In Jaffna the police HQI came with the MOH and the HQI insisted on quarantine for Hoole while the MOH resisted saying it is his prerogative.
“The law is supreme,” said Rajan Hoole (who joined his brother at the latter’s home on noticing the commotion) to this writer, “The Commission and the Police are acting as if anything they think is the law, is indeed the law. How can they interpret the big laws for elections, when they cannot interpret small things like who should be quarantined?” Here is something that Rajan Hoole sent us on the applicable law:
“The HQI would have been justified if he had told my brother under what law he should quarantine yourself. They have no business to order him. The Police have lost the practice of informing people what law they are contravening, and the regulations under which a person would be arrested unless he took certain steps. What is even worse is Deshapriya telling my brother that he must undergo quarantine. He could have told my brother this is the law, leaving him to face consequences for breach of observance. He has no policing powers. That is the law.
“People have started acting as though orders are coming from an invisible source and you have no alternative, but to comply. This is more like a fascistic state.
“Here is something to read:
“Parliament has found it necessary to accord power to ministers, administrative agencies, local authorities and the like. Such power will always be subject to certain conditions contained in the enabling legislation. The courts’ function is to police the boundaries stipulated by Parliament. The ultra vires principle was used to achieve this end in two related ways. In a narrow sense it captured the idea that the relevant agency must have the legal capacity to act in relation to the topic in question: an institution given power by Parliament to adjudicate on employment matters should not take jurisdiction over non-employment matters. In a broader sense the ultra vires principle has been used as the vehicle through which to impose a number of constraints on the way in which the power given to the agency has been exercised: it must comply with rules of fair procedure, it must exercise its discretion to attain proper and not improper purposes, it must not act unreasonably etc.
“It is clear that the Police and Commission acted ultra vires, going beyond the rules of fair procedure and arrogating powers that Parliament never gave them.”
Those against our franchise did not stop there. The Chairman of Ceylon Today, according to our sources, handed in an article with no identified author, to the Editor Sri Nisanka to publish. It claimed that Ms. Hoole had not finished her quarantine and that Hoole was corrupt. A correction from Hoole was not entertained. The Island also carried the slander. Editor Prabath Sahabandu was untruthful in denying the correction.
Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya to his credit issued a correction to the lies being carried by SLPP/SLFP propagandists – Deshapriya expressly stated that Hoole was authorized by the Commission to use the Commission car he used and that Ms. Hoole had finished her quarantine. The correction was not carried by the pro-SLPP/SLFP newspapers. The Island instead launched an editorial attack on the Commission.
Those on the SLPP hate propaganda team then escalated again. During a press conference, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella attacked the Commission, and launched a personal tirade against Saliya Pieris, PC, who had defended the Commission in the Supreme Court, saying Pieris was partial. “Does he not know that a lawyer is always partial to his clients?” asked our academic consultant.
The latest tirade was calculated to divide the Commission. On 23 May 2020 night Mr. M.A.M. Nilam, one the most senior journalists at Lake House’s Thinakaran wrote a story. It was headlined War Banners Raised Against Ratnajeevan Hoole:
The story claimed that Mahinda Deshapriya was interviewed and said that Hoole is a nuisance. He raises Commission issues in public even before they are discussed. It is a Commission decision to write to the Constitutional Council to do something about him or he Deshapriya will think about resigning.
That very night itself websites carried it. Kalaikathir and the widely read print edition of Jaffna-based Uthayan carried it the next morning. They said that it appeared in a Lakehouse website and therefore authentic. Obviously they do not know what an unprincipled hell-hole Lake House has become, said a journalist who points to respected editors being chased off as soon as the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime came into office.
Deshapriya denied he had ever given such an interview. Colombo Telegraph learns that there was some correspondence overnight between Hoole and Deshapriya. That was perhaps the reason for cooking up the story said that journalist, knowingly. Deshapriya then asked Deputy Commissioner of Elections, Mr. S. Achchuthan, to investigate. Achchuthn got hold of Nilam on the phone. Colombo Telegraph independently verified the conversation which went something like this:
Acchuthan: Did you talk to the Chairman?
Nilam: Yes I did. Friday afternoon.
Achchuthan: But he denies talking to you.
Nilam: No but some months ago he told me to talk to Rizen (his PA) or Mohammed (the Retired Commissioner of Elections) or Channa de Silva (Director of planning). I spoke to Rizan and Mohammed.
Achchuthan: Rizan was not here on Friday because of Mubarak. It is months since Mohammed retired.
Upon being told, Rizan was very upset. He called Nilam and a similar conversation followed.
Nilam agreed he had not interviewed anyone and to publish a retraction of the article on Monday. What a comedown for Mr Don Richard Wijewardene’s Lake House!
“We have chairmen who do not care about editorial reputations,” said the journalist who commented earlier. He added “If Nilam had done this for money, he would have been upset that he would be fired. It is clear to me that the Editor asked him to cookup this article. So Nilam does not think he will be punished. That is why he was so calm and did not seem to care.”
And Ceylon Today’s Chairman and its Editor? “No one should buy these newspapers if they buy newspapers for news and analysis. OK for wrapping groceries,” opined a female academic.
And the SLPP/SLFP? “This is the kind of news on which people will judge their government and vote. How far we have fallen from 1948!” the woman professor concluded.
A Note from Prof. Hoole: Appeal for Safety
Today’s Thinakaran, a government owned Tamil daily, has a long piece by one Gayan Kumara Weerasinghe and M.A.M. Nilam who wrote the alleged interview with Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya where I am blamed for many things and being reported to the Constitutional Council for removal
They, the two reporters, claim that I am under inquiry for traveling under curfew with my son, violating curfew laws, that I have had to give an affidavit to the police, etc. I have neither gone to an inquiry nor summoned to one. Travelling under curfew is allowed for me. Today’s Uthayan (25.05.2020) carries a statement from Deshapriya stating there is no problem in me as a public servant on duty going out in curfew hours, and denying Nilam’s story about the interview with him.
I remember what the police did to Hejaaz Hizbullah. I recall disappearances. I fear the police are preparing for something bad.
I only ask to be allowed to do my work as a Member of the Election Commission to do my work. The government and the Police have a responsibility to enable me to do my duty. Lake House (under which Thinakaran is) is under them. They should take action. (By Arjun Balaratnam)