EC and bans

Elections Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya is reported to have banned politicians from using the war victory in election related propaganda. The war victory does not belong to any particular political party, he has reportedly said, adding that it belongs to all Sri Lankans alike. What is the law the Polls Chief has invoked to declare the war victory a public property, as it were.

Are we to gather that the war victory also belongs to those who opposed the military campaign against the LTTE and ridiculed the armed forces’ achievements on the battlefront? One may recall that at the height of war, a UNP heavyweight, then in the Opposition, went so far as to claim, in Parliament, that any bovine could wage war. Another UNP grandee said the army had got so confused due to LTTE attacks that it did not know Kilinochchi from Medawachchi and Alimankda from Pamankada. In 2008, the then Opposition made a determined bid to defeat the national budget and derail the war. Had they succeeded in their endeavour, the war would have dragged on. Does the EC Chief think the war victory belongs to these elements as well?

Some politicians and civil society activists have chosen to condemn the war, at international fora, and they will not take kindly to the EC Chief’s claim that the credit for the war victory should go to all Sri Lankans, who include them as well.

One cannot but agree with Deshapriya that political parties must not be allowed to gain propaganda mileage from what really belongs to the people to win elections. All governments spend public funds on development projects, whose owners are the people. Therefore, the EC should prevent political parties from taking the credit for the completion of such projects to gain political mileage during elections. Politicians in power should be banned from opening development projects after elections are announced.

The EC tells us that it is a punishable offence to abuse state assets for election purposes. The President, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, ministers and the ordinary MPs use their official residences, vehicles and officials for election work. Monstrous, bulletproof vehicles that political leaders use don’t do more than a couple of kilometres to a litre of gasoline, and their travel during election campaigns must be costing the public enormous amounts of money. Isn’t there anything that the EC can do to prevent the abuse of these public assets?

A provincial Governor has gone on record as saying that elections to the provincial councils won’t be held for another two years. This is a very serious situation which warrants the attention of the EC knights in shining armour on a mission to protect the people’s franchise.

The government has denied the people their right to elect their representatives to the provincial councils (PCs). Not that the PCs serve any useful purpose, but so long as they are there elections thereto have to be held. Or, they should be abolished. Worryingly, the EC, which goes out of its way to take on soft targets, has refrained from bringing sufficient pressure to bear on the government to hold the much-delayed PC polls.

We thought the EC was serious about safeguarding the people’s franchise when Deshapriya declared that he would resign as the EC head if the PC polls were not held before the presidential election. It looked as if he had finally decided to get tough with the yahapalana leaders. But the government did not care two hoots about his threat to resign, and he reneged on his pledge. Luckily, the President and the government have failed to find loopholes in the presidential election laws, otherwise there would have been no election next month.

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