- UNP MP says President’s assertion that independent polls commissioner is not essential implies desire to stay in power
- Claims 18th Amendment has turned Executive President into a constitutional monarch
- Says unlikely present Elections Commissioner can withstand pressure from political authority
Opposition Parliamentarian Karu Jayasuriya yesterday slammed the President’s assertion to media heads this week that an independent polls commissioner was not essential ahead of provincial council elections this year, saying it implied a desire to use any means to retain power.
UNP Gampaha District MP and former Deputy Leader, Jayasuriya who has been a vociferous proponent of independent commissions and the 17th Amendment even after its repeal, charged that in the absence of an independent polls commission, no election in the country since 2005 had been free or fair.
Jayasuriya said that while the present commissioner of elections was an efficient and honest official, there were doubts as to whether he would be able to overcome the influence of political authority.
“The statement of the President that an independent elections commission is not essential creates a very serious issue whether it would be possible to conduct free and fair elections at least in the future. We wish to emphasise that this is something similar to the proverb “The cat is out of the bag” and indicates the desire to remain in power through whatever means,” he said issuing a media communiqué.
He said the 17th Amendment that provided for the setting up of independent commissions had been repealed and replaced with the 18th Amendment, affording sweeping powers to the already powerful presidency.
“In the first round of this exercise Attorney General’s Department and Police Department was taken under the President. By centralising more and more powers round the Executive President, the position of the Executive Presidency was converted to a Constitutional Monarch,” Jayasuriya’s statement said.
He said the Department of Elections, which is a vital democratic institution, has also been taken under the President.
“There were direct allegations against the government for using state resources, helicopters, state bungalows, offering meals inside state bungalows spending public funds during the 2010 Presidential Elections to the benefit of their candidate. Dayananda Dissanayake who was the Commissioner of Elections stated publicly that the instructions issued by him were violated by the state media institutions. There was no change of this situation even during the Provincial Council Elections in 2012 for Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provinces,” Jayasuriya explained. He said it was common knowledge that the former Elections Commissioner had requested to be allowed to retire from his position because he was unable to bear the pressure. Jayasuriya said if the Government was confident of a mandate from the people, there would be no impediment to the setting up of an independent polls commission as prescribed in the 17th Amendment prior to the Northern Provincial Council elections.