Polls chief tries to stop MR, MS using other candidates


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Alleging that more than half of 19 candidates in the presidential fray hadn’t been actively promoting their candidature with three of them having already pledged their support to another candidate, Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, has intervened to prevent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena from exploiting the situation.

Deshapriya has requested both print and electronic media to deny coverage to those backing the candidature of any other in the presidential race.

The polls chief issued strict instructions to media in the wake of Sarath Manamendra of Nava Sihala Urumaya pledging his support to incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa. On the invitation of the SLFP, Manamendra addressed the media at the SLFP headquarters and also appeared on state-run television. Manamendra launched a scathing attack on Maithripala Sirisena over what he called a clandestine pact with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to divide the country on ethnic lines.

Deshapriya has told media they shouldn’t contribute in any way to strategies of those exploiting some candidates in the presidential race.

Those who had quit the contest and pledged their support to another candidate after having joined the presidential fray harmed the reputation of the Office of the President, the polls chief charged.

He regretted taxpayers’ money being squandered due to major political parties fielding contestants to sling mud at their rivals. Such a candidate received two consecutive diplomatic postings following the last presidential poll in January 2010. The non-career diplomat still remained at his second station.

Deshapriya said that expenditure could be curbed by ensuring that only major candidates joined the fray.

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