10 December, 2019

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Was The Presidential Election Free And Fair When Colombo Returning Officer Called Sajith Premadasa The Son Of A Donkey, Asks Prof. Hoole

Colombo Telegraph Interviews Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Member, Election Commission, Sri Lanka: Free and Fair Elections?

Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole

1. Comment on the just concluded 2019 Presidential Election. Many call it free and fair. Do you? 

It is the freest and fairest I have seen and am proud of the EC staff for that. But there is room for improvement and that space closes when everyone congratulates us despite the shortcomings. We are like the emperor without clothes, blind to our nudity.

Damaso G. Magbual of ANFREL: Election Violence is Normal Propaganda

The result accurately captured the real vote. Our staff is good at ensuring that the technicalities are right – timely opening of the polls, right counting, etc

Our monitors, excepting the European Community mission, assume incorrectly that observing the technicalities qualifies them to pronounce an election free and fair. I described the widespread pre-election violence and intimidation against Muslims to observer Damaso G. Magbual, Chairman of ANFREL, when he congratulated us on holding a free and fair election. He responded “That is not cheating. That is election propaganda.” Observers should not excuse abominable practices.

Elections were marred by a lot of pre-poll cheating. One, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s (GR’s) lawyer Ali Sabry, in a video with our complaints unit, tells Muslims that GR has practically won the election and Muslims must take ownership of the victory by voting for him, and if not, they will be smashed up. We lack the guts to prosecute the new President’s Counsel.

Two, Karuna Amman is caught on video saying Muslims need to be controlled and put down, GR is the man to do that, and that is why he is working with him. Further, when I passed on this complaint reported to me about this stirring of the communal pot, someone from either the Commission or the Police, told the press that I am the complainant – violating the privacy of complainants and spreading fake news.

Many, therefore, surely did not go to vote out of fear. But now because of the support that GR received from the Sinhalese, I am confident that, despite the atmosphere of fear created, the overall result was correct. That is why, although the elections were neither free nor fair the overall result was trustworthy. That is why I certified the result with my two colleagues.

2. The North-East polled for Mr. Sajith Premadasa in overwhelming numbers. The rest of the country for Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Pre-election, very ethnically divisive statements were made by responsible persons. Your comment.

The results show us to be a divided communalist country. “The intelligentsia in this country has collapsed. No one challenges this collapse. The courts are not standing up as they should,” says my brother Rajan. This is what the public thinks but dares not say.

3. GR’s dual was an issue that is still not resolved. The Election Commissioner said that he did not check national ID or passport of any document of the candidate but only took affidavits. Should the Commission  have shown a greater interest in upholding election laws?

Yes, but first, there is no Election Commissioner, no Head of Commission, no Chief of Commission. We are three members of whom one is Chairman. Calling the Chairman Commissioner undermines the Nineteenth Amendment, which is a good achievement of the outgoing administration.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ali Sabry

Our Acts tie up our hands in being active. A while ago, I asked at the US embassy about GR’s citizenship and was told they could respond only to an official request from the Commission. I put it to the Commission, where my request was refused saying GR was not yet a candidate.

Subsequently GR, Ali Sabry, and another came uninvited to the Commission. Only the three members were present. Without our asking, GR placed on the desk a letter from the US embassy purporting to say his US citizenship had been relinquished, a cancelled US passport, and a Sri Lankan dual-citizenship certificate. My two fellow members handled the documents but briefly.  I noticed issues with dual citizenship that potentially make GR stateless. The Court of Appeal should have settled that issue.

A lot followed. Press friends said that Deshapriya had communicated to GR’s camp not to worry and that only I am a problem and he could handle it. I was disturbed because I thought he was putting my life in danger. I asked him in Mr. Abeysekere’s presence, and he denied it. Ali Sabry released a subsequent secretly recorded private conversation with Deshapriya. In that my name came up, and Deshapriya seems to confirm that citizenship documents had been given to us. If so, that was at another meeting.

I thought citizenship serious enough to raise on nominations day as an objection from me but was advised by my two colleagues and lawyer friends that others would object, and I should keep myself dissociated from such objections to examine those objections when they are filed. I was assured that typed up objections were circulating. However, no objections were raised.

The affidavit you refer to is a statement in the nomination paper that swears there are no impediments to the nominee’s candidature. That covers citizenship.

4. The chairman tried to punish state TV ITN for what he saw as partiality but claimed to have no authority over private media. Is this true? Can private media or any other institution not be restrained?

I think our guidelines need to be obeyed by all. Otherwise why issue them? I also believe we can ask TRC to withdraw the frequency license of errant broadcasters. We weakened ourselves when Deshapriya signed orders in the name of the Commission without our knowledge. I reliably know that in an interview Deshapriya has accused Mr. Abeysekere and me of leaving all the work to him. He is a workaholic and wants things done instantly even late at night. I do not see the hurry to jump the gun in our absence

I suspect this hurry is what led him to de-accredit the observer group CaFFE and issue orders to the ITN in the name of the Commission without our knowledge. When this came to light, he had to rescind both directives. The long-term damage is that when there is a real directive from the Commission as a whole, those not wishing to be bound by us ask “How do we know it really is from the Commission?” This has been part of the problem with controlling ITN. The private media say if you do not control ITN, do not try it with us.

There are other problems too. The frequencies are of high monetary value but are routinely renewed for a mere annual Rs. 1 lakh. They should be auctioned. Political patronage prevents those responsible from tackling this

5. Muslim voters going from Puttalam to Mannar were attacked and held against their will in Mannar until the evening, and some from Mullaitivu returning from Manna were stoned and were hospitalized with broken teeth. What happened?

Muslim voters going from Puttalam to Mannar were attacked

There was a focused attempt to keep Muslims from the polls. The law allows us to have special polling stations for those under threat, but my request was refused. I warned that Muslims would be attacked. I was ignored. Muslims going to vote were fired on. They persisted in voting. Returning they were held up. I found a few buses near Chettikulam, filled with crying children and scared, hungry passengers. I offered to escort them using my police guard. I was refused saying the police were holding them on the orders of the Chairman and Senior SP. The route I took through Tantrimale is too dangerous and required their escort said the police. I offered to go through Madawachchi. I emphasized they are a free people and could not be held up. They would leave at 5pm when 40 more buses turned up said the police. I said our people are always late. The police agreed to take them in 10 minutes and asked me to proceed. I did and learnt they took hours to leave and went through Madawachchi and were assaulted by Sinhalese mobs. It was punishment for voting.

It is sad we refused them special poll-stations despite the Act allowing us to do that. We promised them STF guard en route to the polls. Fat lot of good it did.

6.  You have spoken publicly of the dangers faced by Muslim voters. Why did the EC not arrange for them to vote in their places of resettlement?

It is the increased racism. Sad we ignored so many warnings and refused special polling stations as provided in law.

7. There has been concern that the EC does not possess the required IT capabilities.. What are the areas of the EC that need to be developed? 

A problem is the government salary-structure. Our scales do not allow the payments required.

But more pressing are our personnel and governance issues. The regional assistant and deputy commissioners have severe issues with the Chairman and had got a commitment from him to leave after the presidential election. He now wants to stay longer. I am told that about 4-5 key staffers from the Head Office will leave soon. What will that do to the General Election?

8. Social media was unrestrained even during the silence period. Should social media be controlled? 

There is a need but not by an outright ban, which would be a ban on free speech. 

We need to be serious first about punishments – practically nothing. So our laws and directives are freely flaunted. Our Government Agent and Returning Officer for Colombo has called Sajith Premadasa the son of a donkey and a lot more in his Facebook posts and we let it pass. When in our other 24 districts voters left out of our registers were often zero and rarely exceeding 5, in Colombo it was 2400 where minorities were deleted. Let’s put right first what we can and then worry about other important things. E.g., there is subtlety in our sending up Karuna Amman  for prosecution but not Sabry or Mahinda Rajapaksa for his atrocious claim on 80% of postal votes.

Colombo District Returning Officer Sunil Kannangara’s Unlawful Facebook Post

9. Can the EC make Sri Lanka more inclusive and respectful of different ethnicities? 

It is our responsibility. There can be no full and free franchise without equality. The Chairman rightly speaks of the need for national empathy for minorities. Yet I hear on Commission premises cruel jokes about Muslims being cheats who will vote again if allowed to return to Puttalam, of a particular Muslim staffer who drinks being a good Muslim, and so called jokes about a Muslim girl Faathima wearing a miniskirt being asked if she has changed her name to Fatima, a double-barreled shot at Christians as well. 

Our country is so racist and at once confident that we are liberal and modern that we need leadership from the top to dig our way out of this morass.

10. Do you wish to add anything? 

This time we computerized processing. It was done free for us by Lanka Software Foundation. While thanking them, I have several questions. We did not see the system with real data till 16.11.2019. LSF ran the system. Unknown people were in the control room. Who will pay for changes? The program is written in Python and we are not capable of taking over and examining if everything is as it should be. The Commission is yet to be informed of the mistakes. This is like our mistake at Wennapuwa from the Local Government Election where the extra candidate who was returned is yet to be removed and the country is yet to be told. 

A police sleuth fled to Switzerland after the elections. One lady on local terms at the Swiss embassy was arrested on Monday and released on Wednesday. 

I have received a message “Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, if you ruin my name, I will not be silent.”

Déjà vu? Free and Fair Elections?

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Latest comments

  • 5
    14

    The man is really a son of a donkey. Telling the truth is not a violation of election law

    • 1
      0

      Normally it takes one to know another…are you? A Donkey, I mean? I wouldn’t know.

      • 1
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        Dear Basil,
        .
        Abhaya Premawardena has denied that Sajith is fluent in any language, and there are lots of people saying that Sajith doesn’t have his O. Levels. I don’t know about his Sri Lankan O. Levels. He had good education in England. Maryland was probably a pure bluff.
        .
        Sajith is enviably fluent in (British) English. and since he makes few English speeches to mass audiences he comes through as cultured. On the other hand, his Sinhala political speeches are typical “sawing the air” with little substance – his campaign speeches full of promises didn’t impress me. AKD’s did, but I feel he fell a cropper because he didn’t encourage strategic voting – which wouldn’g have won him the elections, but may have pushed the count to a second round. By that I mean that some SLPP supporters, disappointed with the corruption which they knew existed, may have voted in fairly large numbers for honest Alternatives. Unfortunately, those guys also had egos and wanted only “kathires” and not Preference Voting.
        .
        Kumar David tried hard to educate the electorate, and I was content to play a sorter of mopper-up for those who had misunderstood details. So, it may be that I’m trying to flatter myself that I always had it right!
        .
        There is, of course, the fact that Sajit didn’t complete his LSE degree, and didn’t come clean on that, so that we learnt the word “aegrotat”. Just as much as I will always maintain that Maithripala Sirisena had Education (but was lost in “society” and finally went mad) so I will always grant Sajith Education but see a disturbing lack of honesty.. But all those promises sounded hollow.
        .
        I think that once more, we must heed what Kumar David says in this latest article.

  • 3
    0

    Ever read the Yalpanam Vaipana Malai.
    Here is the link old chap. Read your history.

    https://imgur.com/N22BVbY

    http://noolaham.org/wiki/index.php/The_Yalpana-Vaipava-Malai

  • 2
    0

    Who is more srilankan one who has/had a citizen of another country or don’t not want to be citizens of a another country be in a same country what ever the condition prevail, one who had a citizens run away when issue a downfall.

  • 2
    0

    One can go on and on and on about Sri lanka, Sri lankans and their way of politics and in the end one will not get any where or any answer.
    Bluntly !!!! Sri lankans suck and suck very badly.
    It’s a damned disgrace that the new President was summoned to see his Big Brother in India just after the elections.
    It looks like Sri lankans are still under colonial rule and governed by India.
    India will always call the shots where Sri Lanka’s independence is concerned and Sri lanka will never be a truly free country.
    Shame , a damned Shame on Sri lankans and its politicians.
    It’s better that Sri lanka adapts Hindi as the main language and make Sinhalese the second language.
    Wonder what the so called Buddhist clergy have to say ??????????????????????????????????????

  • 9
    1

    Abhaya Premawardena can call Sijith Premadasa a donkey. That only reflects his poor breeding and low birth. But certainly not the Government Agent, Colombo who is a public servant. How dare he calls Sajith Premadasa a donkey when he is more educated than Gotabaya Rajapaksa? Unlike some ex-presidents, he speaks fluent English and Sinhalese.

    Unfortunately, there is no one to discipline the Government Agent, Colombo for his insulting outburst.

    • 1
      4

      Hey, dummy. if you think Sajith is fluent in anything you are also a donkey

  • 1
    6

    Colombo returning officer might have told a truth though such a thing isn’t expected from such a person @ such a time.

    If Professor Rathnajeewan Hool is sure that RO’s words affected the election; let’s go for another one.

    The real problem is not RO’s words; it’s people like Prof. Hool with a mania of coming up with a different gossip.

  • 2
    0

    nothing wrong with a donkey. In fact in some functions it performs better than humans.A mexican woman goes everyday to the river to wash her clothes.while she bends down washing many passerby have sex with her while she continues washing.She never looks back to see who it is.One day a donkey came and had sex and when it was going the woman said”whoever was the last fellow please come again”.So don’t be surprised if our wives and girlfriends sometimes wish we were donkeys.

    • 3
      0

      Now, now, shankar,
      .
      No ribald stories on CT, please.

      .
      However, I must acknowledge that I enjoyed the story, in part because you’ve told it so well.
      .
      This is how various versions of the Christian Bible appear to confirm what you say:
      .
      https://www.studylight.org/bible/erv/ezekiel/23-20.html
      .
      I didn’t know all that; googled after reading your story. However, I did know this: in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” , Oberon makes Titania fall in love with Bottom who is given an ass’s head. The New Arden Shakespeare, which has copious foot-notes gives information on that member of the ass anatomy.
      .
      shankar, see what you have led me to explore! What would the school kid’s say about my writing all this. Ah, no. The A. Level General English Book which was in use from 1999 to 2016 had this thing about Catherine the Great of Russia copulating with a horse. A few other weird things as well. I used to be called upon to explain the allusions to groups of teachers. Even the male teachers used to say that they just couldn’t teach all that to their classes.
      .
      Here’s a young woman being very scientific about it all:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=IfJ5WTphzdY
      .
      Have we strayed too far? But then, it’s a necessary supplement to “shankar’s” comment.

      Please CT, he started it all!

      • 3
        0

        sinhala man

        do you know why catherine was called great.She said sex was great and had it 6 times a day.Also she liked great penises as opposed to small ones,she considered them a nuisance.Therefore to stop this nuisance she had her lady in waiting have sex with the man,before he came to her.That way she knew he had passed the test of greatness.

      • 1
        0

        Oh, my gosh sankar, the things you know! Can we be sure you’re not making up all this.
        .
        Unfortunately for you that particular book, which contained the portion from the December 1999 issue of Newsweek, entitled “Millennium in Nutshell” has now been withdrawn. It also had snippets on Madonna, Shakespeare, and Leonardo.
        .
        I can just imagine you VOLUNTEERING to teach all that to a class of innocent village lasses.
        .
        I can’t check absolute accuracy since this is from a mobile phone.
        .
        Anyway going on what you say, those human studs would have been fortunate enough to come another day for Catherine.

    • 0
      0

      Tamilal Sari Peeth Sary!!

    • 0
      0

      Tamilal Sari Peeth Sari

  • 1
    0

    Gota is the president of Sri Lanka for next Five long years for some. There will be lots changes in this country during this time. His number one priority is the Security. So no one can play around with him. Second is the economy. He wants to improve the lively hood of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. But he will never give any kind of extra power or separation to a community.

    • 4
      0

      To be serious, Charles, if Gota sticks to such a programme, abjuring white vans, then we’ll all be happy.
      .
      Even the Tamils wanted separation mostly because they desired Security and Economic development.

  • 2
    0

    It’s not nice to insult donkeys, animals have feeling too.

    • 1
      0

      And even frogs. I can’t give you the link from this mobile.
      .
      Google for “The Frog”, by Hillaire Belloc.

      • 2
        0

        One person seems to have liked this poem, so, back at a larger computer, here it is recited:
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JnTniGG2i4
        .
        And if you want just the words only, to pass on to a child, for instance, you can get them here:
        .
        https://gurglewords.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/tuesday-poem-the-frog-by-hillaire-belloc/
        .
        We need a bit of humour, to overcome the frustration I feel.
        .
        .
        Why frustration? Hoole revealed all this a week ago, on Thursday. It was afternoon by the time this came on, with great risk to Hoole’s life is my view. By Saturday, the 30th, all engagement with this article was over.

  • 3
    0

    PART TWO
    .
    For the last four days we’ve been fooling around with comments of this sort as responses. Not one of the thirty-four defeated candidates has thought fit to comment here – they may have commented elsewhere (English, after all, is not everybody’s language). One of the best candidates seemed to be the sole woman. I had all her contact details, obtained after her first rally following her teaming up with Nagananda Kodituwakku.
    .
    She was not satisfied with the SECOND Preference that I had given her. Yes, I would have given her the first preference that she craved for had I considered her to be running a serious campaign. However, she has her cause, and her cause was never being our leader. She was indulging herself.
    .
    I also spoke today to a class-mate whose cause is “Kidney Diseases”. I told him that we’ve both lived out our Biblical Life Span, so what the hell, we have to die. But must we behave like this?
    .
    Dr Ajantha Perera was kind enough to send me this:
    .
    https://youtu.be/ilqbbWRvkqg
    .
    I telephoned her after seeing it all. I also told her that all those “unnecessary candidates” had in effect let us down. I commended her for any efforts she makes to co-operate with Gota. That is being realistic. I notice that two people had liked what I told Charles, above. These now are private conversations – nobody is looking at all this anymore. Hoole’s heroic work is now relegated to History. Professor Kumar David’s pessimistic article is the reality.
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ethnic-conflict-the-problem-is-the-people/
    .
    In Ajantha you have one of those “people” as candidate.

  • 2
    0

    Here Ajantha talks of how the Preferences seemed to cause confusion. Had she become President, she would have been about the best of the lot on offer. But she is a dilettante where politics is concerned. I asked her about the Parliamentary Elections and spoke of the “Manaape” (preferences) there. She knew nothing of that system. And these people actually contest elections! She had read this article, after much cajoling by me. I know that she will not want any more (helpful?) telephone calls from me. I told her that if she wanted to contest for Parliament in a few months, it would have to be from either the UNP or the SLPP. She could then expect to get Preferences from us (my vote is obviously far from any place that she would contest from) after we had voted for the rotten party she joins.
    All the statistics are now in Wikipedia – scroll to the bottom of the blog:
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Sri_Lankan_presidential_election
    .
    That she would be one of the best Parliamentarians is beyond question. For now, I don’t think that she digested the fact that the plethora of “Alternatives” who were so full of their own supposedly unique claims, have put paid to any Alternative Group coming forward in the conceivable future. Anura Kumara Dissanayake ran the best of all the campaigns, but he, too, is guilty. He did not have the courage to go the whole hog and attempt to sweep away the corrupt politicians for good. He, too, was afraid of being termed a “Rathu Aliya”. He may just about get through into Parliament on the National List. If he does, he will be worth ten Ajanthas.
    .
    It has just been proved that we need politicians in Parliament because they alone will stay the course.

  • 1
    0

    Elections Commissioner, Mahinda Deshapriya had announced that he would continue to be a Member of the Elections Commission until his term ends in November 2020. However, he had said that he would step down as the Chairman of the Commission.
    .
    As the Chairman he was acting as if he alone mattered. The public never heard from or of anybody else. Everywhere, in the Media, especially in the Sinhalese media, he was known as the MaKo, that is as the Elections Commissioner. That designation no longer exists. The Elections Department has functioned, and is functioning, with reasonable efficiency, but from the fact that he didn’t check on the citizenship of the the current President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has flowed all sorts of complications. Now we have this report:
    .
    http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Parties-want-EC-Chairman-to-continue-office/108-179037
    .
    I can understand the SLPP requesting that he should continue as Chairman, but what of the other 34 candidates? At least with Dr Ajantha Perera, she proved accessible to me. However, she said clearly that she was never a serious candidate. If that was the attitude of the others as well, why on earth did they contest?
    .
    Hoole has been doing his best to express his views – this article being proof of it. However, he is somewhat hampered by his not knowing Sinhalese. We have not heard anything at all from Nalin Abeysekera. Mahinda Deshapriya dominates all activities in relation to Elections, and does not seem to be bothered what people think of his performance.
    .
    I saw a half-hour interview with him in Sinhalese in which he was talking about his simple life-style, and his proclivity to laughter. I can’t find it now.
    .
    I can’t understand the nonchalance with which all this is viewed.
    .
    Why should I alone bother with this?

  • 1
    0

    And now we have this:
    .
    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=214965
    .
    What can we make of the above? I’m just an old man who is computer literate only to the extent to which I can competently word process. I use software for that purpose that has been developed by others.
    .
    Ask me to use the advanced features of Excel and the like, I’m lost. I shun even Viber and WhatsApp except for the most basic operations. It’s the young guys who have the dexterity to operate those. There’s no point old fellows like me trying to keep up with the young in those areas. However, over the years, we may have developed judgement of the significance of events and actions.
    .
    Professor Hoole, as I understand it, has a DsC (a post PhD qualification) in Computing. If it comes to dexterity in operating computers, I’m sure that he’d leave that to younger people. Something akin to Albert Einstein understanding the profundities of abstruse Mathematics, but not bothering with simple Arithmetic. And where does the experienced Mahinda Deshapriya stand in relation to all this? In my previous comment, I have said that I was unable to find that Youtube of Dehapriya’s “clowning”. I find that I had given the link the previous day at an appropriate page on Page One of these very comments.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biJ5-l2C2IQ
    .
    Let’s not underestimate the value of Deshapriya’s experience, the ease with which he handles politicians, etc However, he says, himself, that he is not comfortable in Colombo society. That is why he is the member of a team. Hoole obviously has a more profound knowledge of computing. Abeysekera, a former Legal Draftsman of the Law.
    .
    .
    We just can’t be happy with the workings of these people as a Team.

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