By Granville Perera –
The just concluded local government has thrown electoral reforms in to a quagmire. The women’s quota seems unachievable and the loser takes most of it may prove to be the biggest hurdle in bringing stability to the local government entities. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s impressive win cannot be discounted, but it should not be forgotten that this was an election to local bodies only and not one that will change a regime. If the government needs to be changed every time a party loses an election, we would end up changing regimes every year.
The important independent commissions set up by the Yahapalanaya with much fanfare seems to be becoming impotent, especially the elections commission. Some of them including the constitutional council and police commission seem to be disastrous.
Election time media prostitution reached its peak with certain media networks blatantly breaking election laws and campaigning against the incumbent government in these Local Government elections. One particular media network even went to the extent of openly calling on the general public to vote against the United National Party (UNP) in their news broadcasts. The loud-mouthed Chairperson of the elections commission Mahinda Deshapriya was a mere spectator to this blatant breach of election laws by a broadcast network that has been loaned broadcast frequencies to provide unbiased broadcasting. This particular network has even promoted some of their journalists and staff to take to politics and enter parliament to lobby and protect the commercial interests of its business empire. There are also many politically ambitious public servants and civil society activists who have been recruited and made pawns at the hands of this media Mudalali who is attempting to force the government to bow to his dictates with his power to influence public opinion and money to bribe. The absence of the white van has now reached a stage where the wild ass rules, especially the media prostitutes.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s attempt at targeting the United National Party (UNP) with stinger missiles loaded with the bond scam failed miserably. He as the head of the good governance government was screaming from platforms during the run up to the Local Government Elections that he would take action against the corrupt UNP, the party that made him President. This was given maximum publicity by a few media networks in the hope of shifting their votes to the Presidents SLFP. He probably expected the disgruntled floating voters to vote him, but they all voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Pohattuwa. An Aappa eating traitor will always be one, said a die-hard UNP stalwart.
It is often alleged that Killi Rajamahendran of the Capital Maharajah Network (Sirasa) has now for a decade tried to destroy the current Prime Minister and replace him with a Capital Maharajah lackey Sajith Premadasa. In their dangerous game of political character assassinations, this network has used many prominent politicians to its advantage. They include Milinda Moragoda, Sajith Premadasa, Ravi Karunanayake, Harsha De Silva, Sujeewa Senasinghe, Faizer Mustapha, Azath Salley to name a few. Some of them have been flushed after use like the proverbial toilet tissue. He also uses his Tamil channel to target Tamil and Muslim politicians, notably Rishad Bathiudeen who kicked the shit out of his favorite protégé, Sri Ranga of Minnel fame. Sometime back, video evidence was shared in social media showing how he was trying to target a particular politician during the recording of the Minnel programme. One of the technical staff had recorded it even though he was ordered to “cut” the cameras. No one dared to sue for misinformation and media bias fearing the wrath of the Maharaja. Shamelessly Sri Ranga continues the Minnel Programme as a wheeler-dealer journalist with the full backing of the killer Maharaja.
Ranjith Keerthi Tennakoon, the Executive Director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has been portraying himself as a warrior and defender of good governance, human rights and free and fair elections. He was an active member of late Venerable Sobitha Thero’s National Movement For Social Justice, which to a great extent orchestrated the regime change in 2015 by defeating the then incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Keerthi Tennakoon also heads the CaFFE, which has been playing an important role as an election monitor during many previous elections.
The CaFFE website claims “Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) was established in April 2008 with an aim to conduct a sustained campaign to monitor and observe elections and to create a broad forum to address issues related to the failure of democratic norms in Sri Lanka. Today CaFFE is a people’s organization, which encompasses members of civil society, lobby community and religious groups, trade unions, members of political parties and opinion makers”
During this local government election and several months before, Keerthi has chosen to go on the offensive against the Yahapalanaya government, especially its main constituent party the United National Party through mainstream and social media. As the head of an independent elections monitoring institution that promotes good governance, human rights and free and fair elections, he seems to have over-stepped his official responsibilities and ethics to target a person of the incumbent government.
He has found favour with Killi Maharaja, the crafty owner of the Maharaja media network which has been on a campaign to destroy the UNP and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the last decade. Keerthi has become a regular guest of Bandula Jayasekera, Faraz Shauketaly, Roshan Watawala, Suranga and others paid to carry out the character assassination of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge and the UNP.
The international community that funds these election-monitoring organizations should take note of Keerthi Tennakoon’s political ambitions and flirting with the Maharaja network to gain political popularity. He seems to be working towards his aspiration of political office by using funds that have been designated for human rights, promotion of adult franchise and monitoring elections. He certainly has the right to enter politics but not by abusing the election monitoring mechanism or using the sparse financial resources available for election monitoring.
It has become abundantly clear that the elections commission has become a toothless entity and will not fulfil its mandate with the current Chairman. An immediate replacement alone could bring credibility to this important independent commission.
Media freedom is an essential part of democratic governance, but when media is at the hands of wild Asses, democracy itself is doomed. It’s high time the Prime Minister took these bulls in the media mafia and deal with them as appropriate. Batalanda may be revived. He can get some advice from the American citizen, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.