By W. Vishnu Gupta –
According to the Daily Mirror of November 12th 2019, the following statement has been attributed to Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, Election Commissioner.
“It is none of the business of the Election Commission to inquire about candidates’ citizenship and as such the EC had not asked them to furnish any documents pertaining to their citizenship, EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he said they had not asked any candidate to produce any documents pertaining to the renunciation of other countries’ citizenship and added they had no relevance to that.
“We do not examine any documents of renunciation of citizenship on the submission of nomination or prior to that, the Chairman said.
When asked whether he had informed any individual that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had not submitted any documents regarding the loss of US citizenship, the Chairman said he had not personally met anybody and discussed the matter.
“It is a matter that would either promote or demote any individual,” he added”
The above is a clear case of where a public servant has neglected his duties. Irrespective of his title and authority it is ground for disciplinary actions. This government officer should not be treated differently .
Failing to perform his duties as required
He is a servant of the Citizens of Sri Lanka and as such he is expected to check and verify the authenticity of information provided in the application submitted (nomination papers) by the candidates. If we are to accept his stated position, any foreigner pretending to be a Sri Lankan citizen will be permitted to submit nomination papers to be an elected politician in the country.
In contrast to his dubious claim; “that is not his job”, even to obtain a National Identity card no Sri Lankan Citizen is permitted to submit an application without verifiable and authenticated documents. The officers accepting such applications visually and orally verify the authenticity and origin of the supporting documents required to obtain National Identity Card. If rule of law is applied rigorously in such a simple matter compared to the application/documents submitted to be the first citizen (President of Sri Lanka), how people can allow Election Commissioner to get away from a statement that confirms negligence of his duties.
Lack of respect for court decisions
In a similar situation, Ms.Geetha Kumarasinghe, was alleged to be a dual citizen. The final judgment disqualified her from holding a seat in the parliament of Sri Lanka as a MP. The Supreme Court made the following final conclusion after reviewing the Appeal case of Ms. Kumarasinghe.
“In view of all the aforementioned matters, I hold that the Court of Appeal was correct when it issued a writ of quo warrant declaring that the 1 st Respondent Appellant was disqualified to be a Member of Parliament and that she is not entitled to hold the office of Member of Parliament. For the above reasons, I affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal and dismiss the appeal of the 1 st Respondent Appellant with costs. In view of the conclusion reached above, the stay order issued by majority decision of the court comes to an end.”
The Election Commissioner is well aware of the background and all the facts considered in the Appeal Court and Supreme Court decisions. Hence this government servant should have paid attention to verify the information submitted by Mr.Gotabaya Rajapaksa, especially when it was known to the people of Sri Lanka and world at large that he was a dual citizen. Therefore it can be argued as the ultimate responsible person he failed his duty to act according to legal precedent and a judgment that was made with regard to holding dual citizenship.
Added fuel to the fire of controversial statements of politicians
Election commissioner has broken the trust that people have placed on him by not thoroughly inspecting the requirements and the supporting document according to the laws of nation. Therefore, he is a party to igniting a highly divisive political debate that is not helpful to ensure safe functioning of an act of democracy; Presidential Election. He has failed the people of Sri Lanka especially his callous words; “pertaining to the renunciation of other countries’ citizenship and added they had no relevance to that.” indirectly he has challenged the court verdicts and the stipulations made in the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution with regard to the persons holding dual citizenship. Who is the responsible authority to check all the requirements according to the statute of the land; surely it is not the responsibility of corrupt politicians. Victim in this situation is the candidate Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa; through his legal team he has made media presentations in this situation and it was unnecessary if the EC has done his duty first. Hopefully he may have made notes of the evidence presented in the ongoing media campaign. Nevertheless it is natural for the citizens of the country to question as to why the nation has a glorified commissioner and an election commission. Are we to assume that checking the accuracy of information with regard to citizen ship is not in his job description? And what are the expressed and implied terms in his appointment letter?
If alleged comments made to Daily Mirror are true, who is the authority responsible for verifying eligibility of the political candidates in Sri Lanka? The people deserve better than what they have received so far in return (for using their Tax money) from similar condescending government servants. On this issue, majority believes the buck stops in the EC’s office otherwise update to the election commissioner’s job description should be a priority of the government.