The Government and its friendly media affiliates have kicked a campaign to hold elections amid the Coronavirus pandemic into high gear as member of the Elections Commission Professor S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole raised the alarm that the Commission might be surreptitiously putting plans in place to hold the poll on the President’s schedule.
Across the board the Sri Lankan media has fallen in line with the Government plan for elections with the privately owned Daily Mirror publishing a huge image on its front page on Saturday about how voters will be managed at polling booths while the viral outbreak rages.
Lankadeepa also owned by the Wijeya Group shocked the country earlier this week when its front page headline screamed that the “Corona risk was over” prompting a denial from no less than the Director General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe that this was not the case. Medical experts are urgently calling for more widespread testing before lockdown measures are lifted and the country goes back to normal life.
Mawbima the newspaper owned by Gotabaya affiliate Tiran Alles also published a full page article praising the Government’s work to combat corona virus once again citing the GRID index that has now been exposed as fake news by Colombo Telegraph’s own research.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s confidants mounted their own propaganda operation to assure the country that the corona virus situation had been “managed” and the process was complete. Nalaka Godahewa, SLPP candidate for the Gampaha District used his good offices with the Certified Management Accountants Australia to get Sri Lanka ranked 9th in the world on an obscure index with little credibility for tackling the corona virus.
Meanwhile Derana CEO and staunch ally of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Dilith Jayaweera has used his television channel and his pro-Rajapaksa anchors to propagate information using erroneous charts and graphs that the spread of the disease was on the decline in Sri Lanka.
While this operation gets underway the Elections Commission chairman and a section of his department appears to be in league with the Rajapaksa administration to hold elections in May in spite of reservations expressed by both other members of the Commission.
The Commission which requires a quorum of three members to meet and make decisions has been unable to hold a meeting since 1 April 2020 due to the ongoing curfew, according to an article published by Prof. Hoole. The Elections Commission member warns that Sri Lanka’s powerful army commander, the IGP, several other senior cops and the Director General of Health Services will meet with the Commission on Monday, 20 April in a bid to strong-arm members of the Commission to hold the election on 28 May as it is the Government’s preference.
Colombo Telegraph learns that the much respected Dr Jasinghe who has earned the respect of the Sri Lankan public for his professional role during the coronavirus crisis is under severe pressure from certain sections of the Government to giving the Elections Commission the green-light to hold the parliamentary election on 28 May.
Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya has acted on his own for years before the Commission was reconstituted by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 2015.
He has continued to act like a sole authority despite being only one of three members on an independent commission that he chairs when the Commission meets. The media savvy Chairman of the EC Deshapriya is continually referred to as “Polls Chief” in the Sri Lankan media and reporters rely heavily on statements made by him unilaterally without consultation with the other members.
Deshapriya who earned public trust when he held a fair election against all odds in January 2015 when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political fortunes were on the wane has since proved he cannot exercise his authority over politicians as a constitutionally empowered independent commission member.
In October 2018 Deshapriya blithely supported former President Maithripala Sirisena’s illegal attempt to dissolve parliament after his failed coup attempt. Against the wishes of the rest of the Commission Deshapriya consulted with Sirisena on dates for the parliamentary election the President had called without the constitutional right to do so.
He showed a similar interest in pandering to the Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the run up to the 2019 presidential election refusing to even question his citizenship status before accepting his nomination papers. Sources told Colombo Telegraph that Deshapriya continues to be a pawn in the hands of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration despite his strong letter to the President on 1st April claiming that the Commission had decided that elections could not be held before the 2nd June deadline to summon Parliament.
Despite this public show behind the scenes Deshapriya has allegedly been consulting and conspiring with the Government to hold elections on the SLPP schedule. The Chairman of the Elections Commission made the restoration of normalcy in the country a condition to be fulfilled by 20th April in order to proceed with the election by end of May.
The Government and its cronies have gladly obliged. (by Chamika Madiwake)