Appointment of Elections Commission delayed over a nominee

by Namini Wijedasa

The appointment of the Elections Commission is being delayed because President Chandrika Kumaratunga has disapproved one of the nominees proposed by the Constitutional Council, political sources said yesterday.

The Constitutional Council (CC) forwarded the names of its nominees for the Elections Commission last year. However, it has not gone further than the president’s office due to disagreement over one of its members — perceived by the president to be partisan.

The names proposed by the CC were Ranjith Dheeraratne (chairman), Dr. A. M. G. Chandrahasan, Mrs. M. Nilaweera, Elmo M. Perera and S. A. C. M Suhail. In terms of the 17th Amendment, President Kumaratunga has to make the appointments and thus operationalise the commission.

"Representations have been made to the president regarding some of the nominees to the Elections Commission and, accordingly, the matter is still under consideration," Presidential spokesman Harim Peiris told The Island.

The displeasure is over the nomination of a "specific individual" who is thought to be partial to the ruling United National Party, said a source close to the president. He said the objection was to Dheeraratne's nomination.

"It is in everybody’s interest that the Elections Commission is as apolitical as possible," he explained. "The president wants to hold some discussions with other parties, including the minority groups, to see if somebody else can be appointed who has everyone’s confidence."

The Human Rights Commission, the Public Services Commission, the National Police Commission and the Finance Commission have already been appointed.

Meanwhile, the president has still not accepted the resignation of H. L. De Silva, PC, her appointee to the Constitutional Council. Mr. De Silva sent his resignation last year and is presently out of the country.

"As far as we are concerned, H. L. de Silva is still a member," said Dhammika Kitulgoda, secretary to the CC. "Constitutionally, he continues as member unless removed by the president. He has not been removed by the president, neither has another member been appointed."

Another legal opinion was that the president need not officially accept the resignation and that it was effective on its own. Either way, De Silva did not participate in any CC meetings after submitting his resignation. This meant that Kumaratunga didn’t have representation in the council which was mainly responsible for nominating members to the commissions. Had she been represented, her concerns would have been reflected in the discussions.

De Silva resigned last year after the government protested against him representing the People’s Alliance in a case against the United National Front’s proposed 19th Amendment. The government maintained that he should either give up the case or his position in the CC.