Polls monitors protest against GMOA presence at Gotabaya’s manifesto launch

National Elections Commission Sri Lanka

Election monitors, yesterday, urged the Elections Commission (EC) to reconsider the deployment of members of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) for election duty as the organisation had consistently shown that they were biased towards a particular political party.

“On October 25, we wrote to the EC about the President of the GMOA, Anuruddha Padeniya attending the launch of the election manifesto of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Being a staff officer Padeniya can’t take part in election campaigns. He is clearly violating the provisions of the Establishment Code,” Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) National Coordinator Manjula Gajanayake said.

However, what was more disconcerting was the fact that Padeniya had taken part in the event not only as an individual but as a representative of the GMOA. ,” Gajanayake, quoting a letter he sent to the NEC. said” “This and the conduct of the GMOA have shown that the EC must be careful in using GMOA members in election duties. Using these officials who have shown partiality might pose a serious problem for electoral integrity. If a member of the GMOA is involved in election duties, we would request you to consider that and take an appropriate decision.”

The Campaign for Free and fair Elections (CaFFE) has also criticized the GMOA and its President for taking part in the launch the Gotabaya’s election manifesto. Padeniya had not only violated the establishment Code but had also set a bad example, CaFFE Director, Surangi Ariyawansha said. CaFFE acting Executive Director, Manas Makeen warned Padeniya that he might have to face legal action if the political party that he supports loses the election. “We have repeatedly warned government officials not to cause an erosion of public faith in state institutions. If Padeniya cares so much about a candidate maybe he can give up his staff officer position and engage in politics,” he said.

“At this rate heads of all unions, who are for the most part staff officers, will start attending similar meetings and this would pose a serious threat to the electoral process. The voters will lose their faith in the elections if people who have openly supported a political party, hold important positions in the electoral process,” she said.

Executive Director of the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL,) Rohana Hettiarachchi also said that they too had written to the NEC about Padeniya’s behaviour.

GMOA Asst. Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge told The Island that they had handed over proposals on economy, sustainable development and the environment to all 35 candidates and that they had already held discussions with both Gotabaya and Minister Sajith Premadasa. “Both candidates have been quite positive. Rajapaksa agreed to all our demands, while Premadasa said that he agreed to all our demands except not reappointing Minister Rajitha Senarathne. “The SLPP then invited us to take part in the launch of the manifesto as part that had contributed to its formulation. The UNP said they would invite us to its manifesto launch later this month. We will also attend that. As staff officers we have no political rights except voting and we have warned all our members not to take part in election campaigns.”

(Source: The Island – By Rathindra Kuruwita)