Just days before the local polls, the Election Commission told Sri Lankans that results would be announced early, as early as 7.30 pm in local authorities with lesser number of voters. Alas, the first result did not arrive till after 12.15 a.m. on Sunday. The Commission, constitutionally empowered to be an independent body, had a [...]


Delay in announcing results and other travails of Polls Chief


Just days before the local polls, the Election Commission told Sri Lankans that results would be announced early, as early as 7.30 pm in local authorities with lesser number of voters. Alas, the first result did not arrive till after 12.15 a.m. on Sunday. The Commission, constitutionally empowered to be an independent body, had a message posted on its website. See screenshot of the web page:

The announcement, however, does not say who blundered leading to the receipt of a scanned document?
Instead, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told a news conference he had not been “influenced by politicians” to delay the results.
In the lead-up to the 2018 Local Government Elections, the Elections Commission (EC) had been conducting an intense awareness campaign to inform voters that on election day, they should exercise their franchise by marking only an ‘X’ on the ballot paper next to the party of their choice. Despite all its best efforts, however, a considerable number of ballots had to be rejected because voters had not followed this simple instruction.

EC Chairman Deshapriya gave vent to his frustrations over the matter at a media briefing on Wednesday, saying no matter how many times the EC had conveyed the message, a large number of ‘Pandithayas’ had still not followed it.

“We had ballots being marked with the number 1 or some other symbol. Some people had even drawn a heart shape,” he revealed. All such votes were rejected. This had led to some angry scenes at certain counting centres, where party representatives who were present had argued over the legality of such ballots, if they saw that the ballots had been cast for their party.

The age-old practice had been that if a voter marks ‘1’ or a  or any indication to clearly show the intent of the voter’s preference, it is accepted as a valid vote. A might indicate the voter loves the candidate, but it might be stretching the argument. Considering the number of women voters, and film stars in the fray it is not surprising. On the other hand, such a vote could be a protest vote.

What was surprising, though, was the high percentage of valid votes, with some councils hitting 85 percent of the registered number of votes. This is positively surprising. The Election Commission Chairman’s other comments also raised eyebrows. One was that his Commission is not responsible for releasing the overall results of the LG elections to the media. If it was not through the media how the citizenry was to know the overall results was not explained. He merely said the political parties would have known the results from the polling centres. The problem is, even a week after the poll the ‘king (or queen) voter’ the custodian of which the Commission so steadfastly claimed to be, continues to be in the dark about who won and who lost, especially in the bigger councils.

And then, Mr. Deshapriya who claimed copyright on the women’s quota and derided others for infringing on what was their authorship, this week complained of the headache the quota was causing in constituting the councils.

Counter-terror draft to be amended again ahead of UNHRC session
For many months now, the Government has been making amendments to a draft of a counter terrorism law to replace the (Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
The final draft was placed for approval before the Cabinet of Ministers last Wednesday by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC.
The Government wants to ensure its early passage since the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to begin its sessions on February 26 and continue till March 23.

However, at last Wednesday’s meeting, Minister Sajith Premadasa raised strong objections to the final draft being introduced in Parliament. Foreign Minister Marapana said the draft laws had been closely studied and many changes made. He said it would be imprudent to stop its passage into law at this juncture in the light of the UN Human Rights Council session.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pointed out that it would also affect the restoration of the GSP plus tariff preferences to Sri Lanka by the European Union. He said that the draft would have to be presented to Parliament and passed.

President Sirisena asked what the reaction of the Attorney General would be. Minister Marapana said the AG had opined that certain provisions needed to be amended. The Cabinet of Ministers will take up the draft bill in a week’s time for a decision.


Govt. did not catch rogues, but rogues caught the Govt.
Politicians have been making some pithy comments after the elections. One of them which has been repeated by many is one that was initially told by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

‘Horu allana Anduwak Heduwa, Horu tika Ekathuwela Aanduwa alluwa’ (A government was formed to catch the rogues; instead the rogues got together and captured the government).

Samantha Vidyaratna, his colleague from the Badulla district, made similar comments saying that it seems voters have elected a party to carry out more destruction like the Uma Oya project.


Political father and son nearly come to blows
A father and son, both in politics, came to near blows this week.
It was all over the father’s insistence that the son should remain ever green and not sign affidavits circulated by others.
But the Young Turk, who once claimed he was in politics from the age of five, was insistent and went on to place his signature to throw out the father’s boss.

More money on crackers than on campaign, but he lost
A local businessman turned politician who contested the last week’s elections from the Nallur area from the ITAK for the Jaffna Municipal council was taken for a costly ride this week by a Provincial Council member from his own party.

As the results of the council emerged, the candidate found that he had been defeated and consulted the provincial council member.He was told that, though he was defeated he could enter the council through the nominated list.

He soon sent out his supporters and purchased fire crackers to the value of more than Rs 100,000 and his supporters were soon seen lighting them in the Jaffna town.
Later, he was told by the party hierarchy that the selections had already been made and he had no chance of getting into the council.

The angry defeated candidate had got back to the Provincial Council member and told him he had spent more money on crackers than what he spent for the campaign.

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