UNP Minister and Badulla District MP Harin Fernando is accusing social media giant Facebook of interfering on behalf of an “American contesting elections in Sri Lanka” after his posts flagging SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s citizenship crisis mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
Fernando was unaware of his posts being removed until the head of Rajapaksa’s legal team and campaign activist President’s Counsel Ali Sabry told a press conference that the UNP Minister’s explosive Saturday night tweets had been taken down.
“I condemn Facebook for censoring my posts regarding American citizenship of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. American companies should not interfere on behalf of an American contesting a Sri Lankan election. I stand by my every word. All my statements remain here on Twitter for your reference,” Fernando tweeted moments after Ali Sabry’s declaration.
It is unclear if Minister Fernando’s posts were removed because it featured photographs of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s US passport which is the private documentation of another person. However it was Namal Rajapaksa who originally shared his uncle’s purported US passport featuring a “Cancel” stamp on it.
With five days to go before the country elects the next president, SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s citizenship issues are back in the limelight.
Debate is raging on social media platforms over whether the former Defence Secretary vying to be President of Sri Lanka is in fact still an American citizen.
On Saturday night the third quarterly publication of the US Federal Register – a type of US Government Gazette dated November 12, 2019 created a fresh storm of citizenship controversy for Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Every quarter, the Federal Register releases a list of US citizens who have renounced American nationality. For the third time this year, Rajapaksa’s name has failed to appear on the
Rajapaksa’s lawyers hastily tried to do damage control today after the news reverberated overnight. Yesterday morning a Buddhist monk also began a fast unto death demanding proof that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was no longer an American citizen. A team of three president’s counsel including Ali Sabry addressed the media. The press conference was streamed live on social media but the lawyers did not encourage too many questions from journalists.
Asked by journalists about Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s wife’s US citizenship status, a visibly irked Ali Sabry retorted: “That is not relevant. She is not a candidate. I think that’s enough. Go to the next question.”
During the press briefing Ali Sabry said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s identity verification documents had been submitted before ‘relevant parties’ including the Elections Commission. He said they had been accepted as eligible and adequate proof of Sri Lankan citizenship. “You can ask Prof. Hoole he saw them” Sabry told journalists.
However, Elections Commissioner S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole told reporters a few hours after the press conference that he had been given a chance to examine Rajapaksa’s renunciation certificate and a letter from the US embassy to Gota saying his citizenship had been renounced. However, Prof Hoole said that while he did not see obvious flaws in those two documents, he had no way of verifying their authenticity as he was not an expert on the issue. He said the Commission had not been provided with copies of the documents.
Colombo Telegraph learns that the SLPP campaign is deeply disturbed by another last minute controversy over the citizenship questions plaguing its candidate, which they hoped had ended with the Court of Appeal ruling on 4th October. In fact, the SLPP believed that Rajapaksa was home-free after not a single objection was raised at the Elections Commission the day the former Defence Secretary filed his nomination papers. Chamal Rajapaksa, whose deposit had also been made as a contingency measure two hours before the court ruling, was stationed at the Commission on Nomination Day, in case nominations raised against Gotabaya Rajapaksa meant he was ruled ineligible to contest.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that the SLPP is particularly concerned because NDF candidate has been gaining ground in the past two weeks. “Gota’s campaign may have peaked a little early because it has been going since August 11” said one source close to the campaign who did not wish to be named. With no major media backing besides the Sirasa TV network, Premadasa opted to put his faith in public rallies to take his messages to the villages. The NDF candidate believed that with the two largest television networks heavily skewed in favour of his opponent, the best strategy was to not rely on mass media to gain an electorate advantage, Colombo Telegraph learns( By TB Bambaradeniya )