Minister demands resignation of EC, alleges Deshapriya protects Prof. Hoole

Wimal Weerawansa

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Minister Wimal Weerawansa on Monday (8) said that the three-member Election Commission (EC) should take the responsibility for holding up the parliamentary polls as well as the conduct of its member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole.

The EC comprises Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera PC.

Alleging the EC pursued an agenda inimical to Sri Lanka, Minister Weerawansa demanded that the biased EC resigned immediately. The NFF leader said so on ‘Salakuna’-a live interview on ‘Hiru’ conducted by a panel of journalists.

‘Hiru’ panel consists of Chamuditha Samarawickrema, Chapa Bandara and Madushan de Silva.

Minister Weerawansa emphasized that the EC couldn’t be considered an independent body, especially against the backdrop of Prof. Hoole’s conduct. Reference was made to Prof. Hoole’s daughter visiting the EC premises at Rajagiriya and his controversial interview with Jaffna-based Dan TV in which the academic criticized a section of the media for their reportage of his conduct while urging the electorate not to vote for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Weerawansa, a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s caretaker cabinet holds Small and Medium Business and Enterprise Development, Industries and Supply chain Management portfolio.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that he considered the crisis was caused by the EC not Prof. Hoole alone. Colombo District MP Weerawansa questioned the EC Chairman Deshapriya’s response to Prof. Hoole’s conduct. Responding to a query, Minister Weerawansa accused EC Chairman of protecting Prof. Hoole.

Alleging that the so called independent EC was actually engaged in prostitution, Minister Weerawansa said that Deshapriya’s actions and the failure on his part to restore public confidence in the EC were contrary to what he often preached.

Minister Weerawansa alleged that EC Chairman Deshapriya was bent on delaying the parliamentary polls.

Referring to Deshapriya’s declaration that the EC could immediately initiate the electoral process if a guarantee was received as regards non-existence of corona threat, minister Weerawansa asked whether EC wanted the government to suspend repatriation of Lankans pending the conclusion of polls.

The erstwhile JVP firebrand strongly denied accusations that the SLPP was trying to bulldoze the EC. The NFF leader acknowledged that the government lacked the power to change the composition of the EC as the only authority-Constitutional Council empowered to intervene remained in the hands of the UNP and those aligned with it.

At the onset of the interview, Minister Weerawansa said that Prof. Hoole or any other member of the EC reserved the right to vote for a particular party though decisions pertaining to the EC couldn’t be made on the basis of one’s political opinion. One-time JVP heavyweight alleged that Prof. Hoole strongly pushed for the rejection of SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s nominations for the 2019 presidential polls.

SLPP General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam recently lodged a complaint with the EC in respect of Prof. Hoole’s interview with Dan TV.

The UNP and its breakaway faction, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) wanted to delay parliamentary polls till late August or early September as both believed the government would be in an extremely difficult situation by then, Minister Weerawansa alleged. Responding to ‘Hiru’ panel, Minister Weerawansa said that the EC facilitated political strategies of the UNP and SJB.

Minister Weerawansa also discussed the possibility of the EC Chairman receiving the backing of civil society grouping that backed the LTTE during the conflict. The minister attributed this to EC Chairman’s younger brother Sunanda Deshapriya being an influential civil society activist.

Minister Weerawansa found fault with the UNP, SJB and the JVP for not criticizing the EC’s conduct.

Acknowledging that the government had failed in the implementation of quarantine regulations in certain instances, Minister Weerawansa said that any attempt to take action against Prof. Hoole and his daughter for the latter’s visit to the EC premises could cause controversy. The minister said that the government was interested in bringing the situation to the public attention and certainly not pursue the matter in court.

Now that the Supreme Court has rejected all petitions filed against the dissolution of parliament on March 2 and EC announcement to conduct the polls on June 20, there was absolutely no point in discussing the possibility of reconvening the parliament. The EC’s responsibility would be to conduct parliamentary poll at the first appropriate opportunity, the minister said, denying accusations that the government suppressed corona deaths as part of its overall strategy to pave the way for polls.

Minister Weerawnsa asked how the government could pressure DGHS Dr. Anil Jayasinghe to deceive the public when the media had direct access to all hospitals where corona patients were warded.

NFF leader Weerawansa alleged that Deshapriya and Prof. Hoole staged a show before the public.

Minister Weerawansa said that the public could move court against the EC for inordinate delay in announcing the polls date.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)