Sri Lankans in every nook and corner of the country are now focused on the presidential election on November 16. Therefore, the electronic, print and even the social media are full of reports on an event that would make history as well as guide their destiny for the next five years. Print media journalists were [...]


Media travails on nominations day


Journalists were given a platform adjoining a drain to cover the candidates who came to hand over nominations at the Elections Secretariat. Pic by Indika Handuwala

Sri Lankans in every nook and corner of the country are now focused on the presidential election on November 16.

Therefore, the electronic, print and even the social media are full of reports on an event that would make history as well as guide their destiny for the next five years.

Print media journalists were accommodated on a dais across Sarana Mawatha in Battaramulla where the National Election Commission is located. A drain below emanated a foul smell. Some occasionally shut their noses but could not, for obvious reasons, shut their eyes. They had to watch what was going on from a television screen installed on the dais. Like the olden days, it was like a silent movie. The pictures came on the screen but not the audio. None of those from the print media was versed in the art of lip reading. So, they had to bear it all. Some said they could easily have done it from the living rooms or bedrooms in their homes since the event was televised live.

One might think that the travails of television crews were less. That was not to be. The dais built for them within the NEC premises, opposite the main entrance, was creaking and was showing signs of collapse. Hurriedly workers went to work below, propping up the stage with more galvanised pipes.

The media representatives, both print and electronic, were asked to turn up at the Government Information Department at Kirullapone at 6 a.m. When they arrived there, there were no officials. They came another thirty minutes late. The nominations process was beginning at 9 a.m.

The journalists were put through stringent body checks by commandos of the Police Special Task Force. Thereafter, they were bundled into two air-conditioned buses to be escorted by armed Police motorcycle outriders to the NEC offices. These buses had to make way every time a candidate was headed to the NEC office escorted by Police patrol cars with red lights flashing. Television cameramen had a tough time since they had to keep all their equipment on the ground and show them one by one for inspection.

As if to soothe their anger, Department officials distributed packets of breakfast – a fish bun, a Chinese roll, a banana and tea.

One witty local reporter said “all I saw was NEC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya moving his lips on a television screen. We could not say whether he was singing or speaking. We had to wait till we returned to our offices to find out what he said”.

In an era where communications in the electronic age are so advanced, the officials tasked to disseminate information need to get their act together.

Polls time politricks

As 35 candidates vie to become Sri Lanka’s president, the pre-occupation, particularly for those backing the close rivals, has become two-fold, fund raising and bargaining to win over rivals.

In corporate establishments in Colombo, top bosses have become vary of answering their telephones. There are often calls from persons claiming to be close aides of candidates seeking contributions for the campaign. The password among them is “Eya dada Gahanna enney” he is trying to impose a fine on you.

In one instance, a former intelligence boss who had close religious links, went around the village areas raising money. According to a complaint received by Pohottuwa big bosses, he had explained that the money was needed for an outfit that was collecting information for their candidate. The onetime top cop was immediately warned to stop his activities. He is now being monitored.

Polls time, as one wag remarked, is when “worms become crows” and there are plethora of politicians projecting themselves as “saviours of the nation and of democracy.”

One instance which could easily find a place in Ripley’s Believe it or Not is about a top southern politician. With political uncertainty he is facing, a millionaire exporter approached him to assure a better future in another party. “How much will I get,” he asked bluntly. The deal, however, did not proceed very far. He has been compelled to do his task free of charge.

CC wants second name from Sirisena

The Constitutional Council has requested President Maithripala Sirisena to send in a second name so it could be considered together with High Court Judge Manilal Waidyatilleke for appointment to the Court of Appeal. At present only his name has been recommended.

The Council which met on Tuesday also noted that the recommendation of the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya has not been received so far over the vacancy.

NEC room for special guests

A special room in the upper floor of the National Elections Commission (NEC) offices was set up on nominations day.

It was equipped with large television screens and each person contesting was given five passes.

Among those present in the room when the nominations were under way were the wife of the National Democratic Front (NDF) candidate Jalani Premadasa, Mangala Samaraweera and Basil Rajapaksa.

MR’s subtle message at A’pura rally

At the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led Sri Lanka People’s Alliance (SLPA) rally at Anuradhapura, leader Mahinda Rajapaksa sought to deliver a subtle message.

It was only after their candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa had concluded his speech did the leader Mr Rajapaksa arrive at the rally.

The move, an SLPA source said, was to obviate criticism in the social media that leader Rajapaksa was escorting Gotabaya to all his engagements.

SLPP slams door on Cabinet minister

A controversial Cabinet Minister, who was at the eye of a national controversy after the Easter Sunday incidents on April 21, was badly disappointed.

The man from a north-western area wanted to join the Sri Lanka People’s Alliance (SLPA) but his efforts proved futile.

A formidable section raised strong objections despite some backing for him. He has therefore ended up in square one.

This is whilst two others, a serving minister, who is known to bat his way through and a deputy who is well known for switching sides by the hour, are to join the Pohottuwa ranks. Insiders say a surprise announcement is expected anytime now.

JVP jumble

Besides the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, there are six other former party front liners are in the presidential fray.

Five of them are former JVP MPs whilst one has been a prominent party member.

The five former MPs are Piyasiri Wijeynayake, Duminda Nagamuwa, Anuruddha Polgampola, Samansiri Herath and Siripala Amerasinghe.  The other candidate is Aruna de Soysa.

Neither the former JVPers nor the present leader gets the JVP symbol of Bell. Dissanayake won the toss in a duel with another candidate and ended up with the Compass symbol. He is contesting under an alliance.

The President’s unlucky number

Number 52, it appears, is not a lucky one for President Maithripala Sirisena.

Last October, he swore in Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. That lasted only for 52 days. The Supreme Court ruled that the move was unconstitutional.

His five-year term of office is set to end on January 8, 2020. However, the call of presidential elections early by the Election Commission has deprived him of 52 days in office.

He will cease to be President on November 17.


Mahinda quips Sajith wants to bring Yala to Colombo

Sajith Premadasa, the candidate of the United National Party (UNP)-led New Democratic Front (NDF), has on public platforms repeatedly declared that he would not occupy the official residencies meant for the President.

He said they would be turned into technology centres where youth would be enrolled to undergo training.

The subject was raised by a partner leader of the Sri Lanka People’s Alliance (SLPA) when they gathered at the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition. He asked SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who heads the alliance, what he thought of it.

Mr Rajapaksa lost no time to respond. “That is old news. Did you hear the latest one? Sajith wants to convert Viharamahadevi Park into one like Yala. People need not go to the south to see wild animals,” he guffawed to the laughter of those present.

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