Counsel says DGHS has given green light and asks why EC cannot hold election


by AJA Abeynayake

President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva, yesterday, told the Supreme Court that Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe had informed his client secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, in a letter, that the elections process could commence under the prevailing situation in the country.

Counsel de Silva said so when the hearing of the fundamental rights violation petitions filed challenging the date set by the Elections Commission to hold the General Election 2020, commenced for the fifth consecutive day, yesterday (22), before a five- judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Malalgoda. 

 The veteran lawyer asked why the Election Commission had delayed the commencing the process of holding the general election when health authorities said it could be done so under the current situation.

 The President Counsel said that the Elections Commission had issued a press release on Rs 5,000 allowance given by the government to the people who have lost their daily income due to COVID-19 pandemic stating that it should be depoliticized. The Rs 5,000 allowance was given to the people not as a result of political need but with the intention of easing the economic burden of people hit hard by the pandemic and the resultant lockdown. Not only the government in Sri Lanka but its counterparts in other countries provided similar relief to their people under the prevailing situation.

Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva, appearing for the Attorney General, on behalf of the President, said the President’s proclamation to dissolve Parliament and the gazette issued by the Elections Commission to hold elections on June 20 were legal directives.

She said that some petitioners had argued that their rights to franchise had been challenged, but they had not been able to prove that they were eligible to vote as registered electors. They had failed to submit electoral lists to prove that they were registered voters.

The ASG pointed out that it was not the President who had postponed the election but the Elections Commission. The President imposed quarantine curfew, taking the prevailing situation in the country in the face of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The election scheduled for April 25 had been postponed to June 20, she said.

 Seven parties including Attorney at Law Charitha Gunaratne, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Journalist Victor Ivan and Samagi Jana Balawegaya filed Fundamental Rights petitions, challenging the election date set by the Elections Commission.

 The Attorney General, on behalf of the President, Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, and Members of the Commission N. J. Abeysekara and Ratnajeevan Hoole have been named as respondents.

 Mandatory provisions have been provided by the Constitution to fix a date for the parliamentary election and convene the new Parliament not later than 3 months from the dissolution of Parliament, the petitioners have argued.

 M. A. Sumanthiran PC with Counsel Ermiza Tegal appeared for Charitha Gunaratne. Senior Counsel Viran Corea with Counsel Bhavani Fonseka and Luwie Ganeshathasan appeared for CPA and Dr. P. Saravanamuttu. President’s Counsel Geoffrey Alagaratnam, Pulasthi Hewamana, Lasantha Garusinghe and Anurangi Singh instructed by Ishara Gunewardane appeared for petitioner S.C.C. Elankovan.

 Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appeared for the Attorney General. Romesh de Silva, PC appeared for respondent Dr. P.B. Jayasundera who is the Secretary to the President. Ashtika Theivendra appeared for S. Ratnajeevan Hoole. Counsel V. K. Choksy appeared for the Election Commission.

 Sanjeeeva Jayawardena, PC appeared for intervenient petitioner Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera. Gamini Marapana, PC with Navin Marapana, PC, Counsel Kaushalya Molligoda and Uchitha Wickremesinghe appeared for Ven. Attapatukande Ananda Thera, an intervention party. Senior Counsel Kanishka Witharana appeared for intervenient petitioner Premanath C. Dolawatta.

The five-judge-bench fixed further hearing till 10 am on Tuesday (26).

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