Wayamba Governor lambastes EC for double standards … questions HRCSL silence over CC member’s controversial stand
Posted on July 30th, 2020

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island


North Western Province Governor A. J. M. Muzammil yesterday (30) alleged that the Election Commission (EC) seemed to be brazenly selective in the implementation of relevant laws pertaining to the conducting of parliamentary polls scheduled for Aug 5.

 Muzammil said that the EC owed the public an explanation as to how the EC allowed Constitutional Council member attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf to appear on the political stage whereas Governors were strongly advised against participating in the ongoing polls campaign.

 In spite of the dissolution of parliament on March 2, 2020 to pave the way for parliamentary polls, the 10-member CC headed by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is staying put.

 The EC, embroiled in a deepening controversy over the re-renaming of the Ape Jathika Peramuna as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) consists of Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Muzammil made available to The Island several letters he had received from the EC as well as Secretary to the President and his response to both EC and Secretary to the President to highlight the fact that the EC was following what he called a highly biased policy.

 The EC had conveniently chosen to ignore Yusuf throwing his weight behind a civil society project meant to sabotage a high profile SLPP campaign seeking a two-thirds majority at the August 5 poll to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Muzammil said.

The former Colombo Mayor was referring to Yusuf calling for a common stand against the moves against the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of yahapalana administration.

 Yusuf is on record as having said that the government would have conducted parliamentary polls regardless of the severe threat posed by the corona epidemic, if not for the timely intervention made by the EC in terms of the 19th Amendment.

 Muzammil emphasized that the EC put off the scheduled polls in terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1981 not under the 19th Amendment as referred to by the CC member. The bottom line is that in case of a calamity even the Election Commissioner had the power to put off an election, Muzammil said, urging the EC not to play politics with the process.

 Muzammil said that the controversy over a CC member taking a political stand took place close on the heels of EC member Prof. Hoole controversial comments in an interview conducted in Jaffna. The CC remained silent on the EC member’s conduct and the EC ignored a CC member taking sides in the ongoing political battle, when all of them should be strictly neutral. The civil society grouping Yusuf is aligned with campaigning against the SLPP and was canvassing for the UNP, its breakaway faction the SJB, the JVP and the TNA to save the 19th Amendment, Muzammil said.

 Responding to another query, Muzammil said that the polls monitoring bodies seemed to be strangely silent on what was going on at the EC. The EC lost public credibility by turning a blind eye to the CC member declaring his intention to save the 19th Amendment by campaigning with a section of civil society. 

A spokesperson for civil society grouping Freedom said that due to practical difficulties caused by the Corona crisis they couldn’t conduct public meetings since the one held on July 8 at the New Town hall. However, several media briefings were held since the inaugural meeting to highlight the need to save the 19th Amendment to prevent emergence of an authoritarian administration, the spokesperson said, adding that quite a useful webinar on economic issues, too, was conducted. A second webinar would be held today, Friday (31), with the participation of Jayadeva Uyangoda, Javid Yusuf and Suren Fernando. The Freedom spokesman said that they took a strong stand in respect of the 19th Amendment on a programme on TNL television recently.

 Muzammil said that he didn’t find fault with the civil society for campaigning against the SLPP. The issue is why the EC allowed a CC member to be part of the campaign whereas Governors appointed by the President were told not to engage in any promotional activity.

 Muzammil said that he received a letter from Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera that instructed him not to promote any candidate at public expense. The Wayamba Governor pointed out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) had issued several statements recently advising public servants et al, including those in the media emphasizing the importance of neutrality in the whole process. However, the HRCSL hadn’t commented on the CC member taking a political stand, Governor Muzammil said, adding that his position on the HRCSL was subjected to correction.

 Yusuf, in a recent interview with The Island explained his rights as a member of the civil society as well as the CC, vowing he wouldn’t serve the CC at the expense of his primary role.

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