*Urges losing party not to make foolish excuses
*Slams ‘non-serious’ candidates
*Praises police for backing his efforts
*Warns media not to manipulate election process
Dismissing claims and counter claims that the government and the Opposition could manipulate the presidential election process, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday assured that he had taken a range of measures to ensure a free and fair poll. An irate Polls Chief emphasized that measures now in place were sufficient to thwart attempts to engage in organised malpractices though some (politicians) publicly expressed concern over plans to rig polls.
Addressing the media at the Elections Secretariat, Dissanayake said that the major candidates had not yet accepted defeat though the loser would start complaining once the final result was out next Wednesday (January 27). He urged the loser not to allege switching of ballot boxes while being moved from polling booths to counting centres, stuffing of ballot boxes, introducing pre-loaded ballot boxes at the counting centres or impersonation.
He said that the Election Secretariat had taken unprecedented measures to prevent malpractices. Dissanayake indicated that he wasn’t ready to accept foolish excuses from the loser. Detailing steps taken to block any organised bid to rig polls, he said in keeping with an agreement reached with the police, representatives of rival political camps would be allowed to monitor the entire process to prevent criticism and baseless accusations.
Even if they had proved that the election process was free and fair, the loser was most likely not to accept defeat but cause trouble. He criticised those who were in politics for not being realistic and appreciative of measures taken by the Elections Secretariat. He said that it was difficult to convince politicians.
He also dismissed claims that fake identity cards other than the National Identity Card could be used by political parties. He explained that the Elections Secretariat was having all original documents submitted by persons, who had sought temporary IDs through the Elections Secretariat as well as the Registrar of Persons, anyone producing a bogus ID could be detected.
Declining to answer media queries, he accused a section of the media of being biased and manipulative in order to promote a candidate of their choice the tough talking official said that he wouldn’t allow journalists, their establishments or media proprietors to present his opinion to suit their agenda. He pointed out that the only way to prevent his views being used either to promote or undermine a particular candidate was not to respond to media queries ahead of Tuesday’s poll. He said that he didn’t want to be accused of damaging the prospects of any candidate at this moment while emphasising the importance of protecting the reputation of the Elections Secretariat.
The polls chief promised to respond to media queries following the poll. He expressed confidence that his decision not to express his opinion would help his successor.
He launched a scathing attack on candidates other than incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Opposition candidate General (Retired) Sarath Fonseka for contesting the presidential. Calling non-serious candidates, he pointed out that their entry had increased the burden on the taxpayer. According to him, they could have avoided printing a 18 and half inch long ballot paper using expensive security paper of ‘non-serious’ candidates, who did not join the fray. He declared that there was absolutely no point in them contesting the polls. He stressed that there was no benefit to anyone. He said that allocation of free airtime over State television and SLBC to ‘non-serious’ candidates was an utter waste of money.
He appreciated the Police for helping him to maintain law and order. Although, there had been some issues initially, the police were now doing a good job. He commended the police for backing his efforts. He revealed that his instructions to the IGP (Mahinda Balasuriya) had been passed on to officers and men.
He ruled out special treatment to any of the electronic media, both radio and television. He said that the Elections Secretariat was ready to facilitate their operations by transmitting results simultaneously to all establishments without allowing them to set up base at the Elections Secretariat. He said that the final result should be simultaneously announced by the media without causing unnecessary problems. There was no need for media institutions to compete with each other to announce results first, he said.