ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main opposition party risks losing seats in two districts as it transpired that foreigners or dual citizens had been among its candidates in violation of a newly enacted constitutional provision.
In the district of Galle, Geetha Kumarasinghe who was elected as a member of the UPFA is a Swiss national according to several recent newspaper interviews she herself had given.
The 19th amendment to the constitution bars “a citizen of Sri Lanka who is also a citizen of any other country” from holding elected office in the island.
Another UPFA candidate from Matara district, Manoj Prasanga Hewagampalage (son of H. G. Sirisena), is reportedly an Australian citizen and his candidacy was challenged by the JVP.
However, the Matara returning officer maintained that since the election was being conducted under the parliamentary elections act of 1981 and provisions of the 19th amendment were yet to be incorporated into it, he could not reject the UPFA list.
The returning officer, however, noted that anyone could go to court after the election and challenge the inclusion of a dual citizen in the UPFA list. The Supreme Court would have to interpret if the 19th amendment applied to the August 17 election or not.
A successful challenge to Manoj and Geetha would lead to a new crisis where the elections commissioner will have to decide if he should call a fresh by-election or declare the entire UPFA list invalid on the basis that a flawed list had been submitted.
Both Geetha and Manoj were not immediately available for comment. Geetha’s official website did not give her nationality, but according to her biography she “entered into marriage with Mr Chris Fuhrer Ferdinand (Swiss national) and has a beautiful daughter – Tharika Fiona Fuhrer.”
Manoj failed to secure a seat from Matara, but his name appears in the UPFA list and in the event of an elected MP resigning or dying, he could still be an MP. Therefore, he could still be challenged in court, a move that woulld undermine the entire list of candidates.
Official sources said the JVP had raised the issue of the Matara UPFA list and was likely to mount a legal challenge while Geetha Kumarasinghe’s foreign nationality had come to light only in interviews she herself had given (read Sunday Observer on March 16, 2014, when it was under the control of the UPFA).
Any change in the Galle and Matara results will impact the national lists that will also alter the balance of power in parliament where the UNP has 106 and the UPFA 95 and JVP 6. The TNA has 16 and the EPDP and the SLMC have one each.