For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Southern Provincial Council polls
PAFFREL files rights petition in Supreme Court
An election monitoring body has filed a rights petition in the Supreme Court for a direction to enforce the provisions of the Provincial Council Act relating to illegal campaign practices.
People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and an elector W.P.Wilson in their petition filed through Attorney-at-Law Mohan Balendra has cited Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake, Returning Officers of Galle, Matara and Hambantota District Secretariats, the IGP, secretaries of 18 political parties and the Attorney General as respondents.
The Southern Provincial Council was dissolved by proclamation of the Governor of the Southern Province on August 3, 2009 and the Elections Commissioner had given notice declaring that an election is to be held. The petitioners stated that nominations were called which commenced on August 21, 2009 and ended at 12 noon on August 28, 2009.
The petitioners stated there were number of incidents reported to PAFFREL relating to illegal political campaigns, namely illegal decorations and illegal display of posters, cut-outs and banners as well as illegally constituted political party offices of the candidates.
They said that under the Provisions of the Provincial Council Act, during the period commencing from the first day of the nomination period and ending on the day on which a poll is taken at such election, no person shall, for the purpose of promoting such election display (a) in any premises, whether public or private, any flag or banner; or (b) any handbill, placard, poster, drawing, notice, photograph of a candidate, symbol or sign on any place to which the public have a right of, or are granted, access except in or any premises on any day on which an election meeting is due to be held in that premises or (c) any handbill, placard, poster, drawing, notice, photograph of a candidate, symbol, sign, flag or banner, on or across any public road; or (d) in or on any vehicle, except that is used for the conveyance of a candidate at such election.
They pointed out that every person who contravenes the provisions of the said Act shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction after summary trial before a Magistrate, be liable to a fine not exceeding Rs 100 or to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding one month or both such fine and imprisonment.
They complained that the candidates and the members of the political parties who are taking part in the said election are campaigning for the votes of the registered voters of the said Province with blatant disregard to the relevant laws relating to campaigning.
They stated the illegal campaign and election malpractices will gather momentum as the date of the poll nears and could eventually lead to violence as the party members from opposing parties compete to support their candidate.
They expressed apprehension that the conduct of the candidates violate the right of the registered voters to freely choose between candidates to serve them and thereby their freedom of speech and expression in the exercise of their franchise.