Oct 22, 2019

Request to stop election advertisements of newspaper that published Gota’s advertisement Featured

Senior Journalist and Political Analyst Kusal Perera has written to the Election Commissioner stating that immediate action should be taken against the newspaper which published the advertisement containing remarks made by the Army Commander and those who had given the advertisement for publishing.

He had also requested that the Election Commission order the newspaper to provide information regarding the person or group which had given the advertisement to the newspaper for publication within 24 hours.

Therefore, he had requested the Election Commission to suspend all election adbvertisements for this newspaper until then, which the Election Commission has the power to do.

The letter also states that, “Instead of resorting to such immediate steps, but accepting explanations from the Army Commander and from the SLPP only, I accuse, is an effort by you to reduce this to “another violation” and allow it to fade off.”

The relevent letter sent to the Election Commission by Kusal Perera is shown below.

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20 October, 2019

Chairman

National Elections Commission (NEC)

Election Secretariat

Rajagiriya.

Mr. Chairman

Re; election campaign advertisement published using statement by Army Commander

Most recently, a Sinhala newspaper carried a paid election campaign advertisement with statements from not only retired State Security Forces Officials but also from the present Army Commander as well. This no doubt raised serious questions over election campaigning.

With social protests mounting, you as Chairman NEC accepted it is wrong and the only step the NEC took regarding this advertisement was to ask for explanations from the Army Commander and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). A leading mainstream English newspaper today (Nov 20) reported that you had accepted their explanations that said they have no connections to the advertisement.

Accepting the Army Commander’s and the SLPP explanations as valid raises no questions, nor have anyone questioned those explanations. Yet you are quite aware that does not remedy or rectify the grave damage done to the Voter. Therefore, immediate steps should be taken against the newspaper that published the said election advertisement and against the person or persons who handed over the advertisement and paid for same. The NEC has enough powers to request all relevant details within 24 hours from the Publisher of the newspaper about the person or persons who handed over the said advertisement. I believe the NEC also has powers to suspend all election campaign advertisements in the newspaper in question, till all details are provided to the NEC. Instead of resorting to such immediate steps, but accepting explanations from the Army Commander and from the SLPP only, I accuse, is an effort by you to reduce this to “another violation” and allow it to fade off. 

This in a way would raise serious and important issues with the Voter about the integrity and independence of the NEC in conducting the next Presidential election on 16 November. Let me remind you, such questioning is justified with your position taken on the PC elections and public statements you made regarding same. With regard to PC elections, let me draw your attention to the letter I wrote to you on 19 January 2019 that still remains without any response from you.

In such uncertain context, I wish to request you to take immediate steps against the relevant newspaper and those responsible for this illegal election advertisement in establishing the integrity and independence of the NEC.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Kusal Perera

Journalist / Political commentator

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