The Guest Column by Victor Ivon

5th December 1999

'An election with democracy turned upside down'

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Newspapers reported that the leader of the SLMC had said at a discussion he held with President Chandrika Kumaratunga that if she were to win in a corrupt election it would blemish not only her but also her children and that it would be more honourable to lose in a free and fair election than to win in a corrupt election. The leader of the SLMC told the press that the President thereafter assured him that a clean election would be held and that he believed that she would do so.

However, it is difficult to think from the way things are happening in the country, that anything but an extremely corrupt election will be held.

As a first step in that direction the government allegedly appointed a person amenable to itself as the head of the Supreme Court. The next step was to appoint a person the government can depend on as the acting Commissioner of Elections. The President got down a group of GAs who were to function as returning officers to a dinner party. Two GAs whom she thought would not act in the manner she wanted (those of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa) were transferred, it is alleged.

Now some ministers of the government are in the process of selecting election officers too. The task of selecting presiding officers for the election in the Kandy District has been entrusted to an Assistant Director in charge of the Gannoruwa service station of the Department of Agriculture. He is reportedly a person very close to the Minister of Agriculture D. M. Jayaratne. The responsibility of selecting assistant returning officers in the Kandy district has been given to Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Kandy, Mrs. Helen Megasmulle. She is the wife of the Gampola Regional Secretary D.B. Megasmulle Parakrama Bandara Ekanayake who functioned as GA Kurunegala District at the time of the scandalous Wayamba election and is GA Kandy, now. He is one of those who were at the dinner given by the President. There is evidence coming out that Samurdhi officers are being used for a fraudulent programme planned to be implemented in disregard of the Supreme Court ruling on using Samurdhi officers who are paid salaries from government funds. It is to Samurdhi officers that the job of handing over to each household a special document containing the President's message, has been entrusted.

A letter dated 23.10.1999 addressed by the minister to Samurdhi officers also includes a questionnaire which they have to fill with data about voters in their grama niladhari divisions. Thereafter, a letter dated November 16 signed by the minister with the title 'The role of Samurdhi officers and managers during the election period' addressed to ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and election organisers has asked them to avoid getting those Samurdhi personnel to do any other work during the election period because Ministers Jayaratne and Anuruddha Ratwatte have assigned special tasks to them.

The letter requests that Samurdhi officers serving in areas other than their own should not be transferred to their own areas because they have been assigned special jobs in the areas where they are at present.

What is important to the country is not who will win the next election but whether it will be a honest election. If the victory is assured though an election robbery, the inevitable consequence will be that there will be a police state without justice and without democracy in the ensuing period.

-Victor Ivan

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