MPs will be unseated if found to have campaigned at places of worship – EC chief

Mahinda Deshapriya

The Election Commission (EC) was empowered to strip a candidate of his or her seat in Parliament if he or she had campaigned at a place of worship, EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said, in Kandy, yesterday, after meeting the Mahanayake Theras of the Asgiri, Malwathu Chapters and Ramanna Nikaya.

Deshapriya also requested the chief prelates to instruct other monks not to allow election campaigning in temples.

According to the Parliament Elections Act (No. 1 of 1981) it is illegal to campaign in places of worship.

Although this practice is illegal, there had been numerous instances where election campaigns had been conducted at places of religious worship, Deshapriya told the prelates of the Asgiri and Malwathu chapters. It was also illegal to hold press conferences and to give voice cuts to media in places of worship, Deshapriya said. He presented a copy of the Parliament Elections Act to the prelates.

The use of places of worship for election campaigns was not limited to temples, Deshapriya said. Since most Sri Lankans were Buddhists, he had first visited chief prelates, Deshapriya said, adding that he would soon meet Christian, Hindu and Muslim clergy.

Although the clergy had a right to campaign, address political meetings and contest elections, they were prohibited from using temples for election related activities, the EC chief said.

The chief prelates commended Deshapriya for explaining election laws to them and that the Commission must use their powers to ensure a free and fair election. The chief prelates said they would also request political parties and candidates not to campaign at temples at the upcoming election.

(Source: The Island – By Samanthi Weerasekera and Cyril Wimalasurendra)