For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
|Polls Chief appoints ex-civil servant to monitor conduct
By Kelum Bandara
Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday decided to appoint former civil servant Jayampathi Hettiarachchi to monitor the state electronic media in the run up to the presidential election scheduled for January 26, 2010 according to guidelines set by him.
The Commissioner informed his decision to representatives of some opposition political parties supporting the candidature of Gen. Sarath Fonseka when he met them yesterday. However, he did not clearly mention this as the appointment of a Competent Authority. The Commissioner has reportedly ruled out the possibility for him to act with regard to the state print media because of a Supreme Court ruling. The Commissioner has powers under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution to appoint a Competent Authority. The opposition has demanded such a measure to control the state media operating in a partisan manner.
UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake who attended the meeting told the Daily Mirror that the misuse of state
resources including the media was discussed at length at the meeting. Mr. Karunanayake said that Mr. Hettiarachchi who is now tipped to be the Competent Authority had worked as the District Secretary of Kalutara and Colombo earlier.
The opposition has continuously raised concerns about the partisan operation of the state media institutions since the declaration of the election. Later, the Commissioner issued a set of guidelines for the media institutions to be observed when conducting or telecasting their programmes, particularly with regard to the election.
Mr. Karunanayake said that the issue of displaced voters was also taken up at the meeting. He quoted the Commissioner as having told the political party representatives those displaced persons who stay within their own districts are not required to get registered for this election.
He said the Commissioner assured them of a comprehensive and concise programme for the postal voting.