Army Chief in Gota ad: action against newspaper demanded

Journalist and Political Commentator Kusal Perera is demanding that the Elections Commission take action against the newspaper that published an advertisement supporting Gotabaya Rajapaksa which featured the serving Army Commander Lt General Shavendra Silva.

After several complaints were received by the EC, the Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya wrote to the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Gen Shantha Kottegoda and called for an explanation. After a response was received from the Army Chief, the Commission has let the matter rest.

Deshapriya also ruled that it was “wrong” for the Commander to appear in that advertisement.

Journalist Perera says that is not enough. In a letter addressed to Deshapriya he says “accepting the Army Commander’s and the SLPP explanations as valid raises no questions, nor have anyone questioned those explanations. Yet you are quite aware that does not remedy or rectify the grave damage done to the Voter.”

Perera demands that action be taken against the newspaper concerned, which is the Sunday Sinhala weekly “Aruna,” as well as the person who placed the advertisement. “The NEC has enough powers to request all relevant details within 24 hours from the Publisher of the newspaper about the person or persons who handed over the said advertisement. I believe the NEC also has powers to suspend all election campaign advertisements in the newspaper in question, till all details are provided to the NEC. Instead of resorting to such immediate steps, but accepting explanations from the Army Commander and from the SLPP only, I accuse, is an effort by you to reduce this to “another violation” and allow it to fade off” Perera writes.

 “In such uncertain context, I wish to request you to take immediate steps against the relevant newspaper and those responsible for this illegal election advertisement in establishing the integrity and independence of the NEC” he added.

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