Dispute over National Seat between Monks headed to Court – Deshapriya
ECONOMYNEXT – The dispute as to who should be nominated to the single National List seat won by the Buddhist Monks-led Our People’s Power Party (OPPP) will have to be decided in a court of law, Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said.
Both Athureliye Rathana Thero and Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero are staking a claim for the seat.
Deshapriya told EconomyNext that the dispute arose immediately after the election when the then Secretary to the OPPP Vedinigama Wimalatissa Thero wrote to the Elections Commission on August 7 nominating himself to the National List seat.
In the letter, Wimalatissa Thero had said that the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Gnanasara Thero and former Parliamentarian Rathana Thero were both claiming the seat and he was going to occupy the position until the dispute was settled.
Then, Deshapriya said, the Commission received a letter on August 8 from the Chairman of the OPPP Saman Perera saying that Wimalatissa Thero had been removed as General Secretary of the Party and Nishantha Ratnayake had been appointed.
Ratnayake then sent in a letter stating Chairman Perera has been appointed to the seat.
The Elections Commission is bound to accept the nominee submitted by the Party General-Secretary.
The Media Spokesman for the BBS Eranda Navaratne told EconomyNext that Perera was being appointed “on the understanding that he would resign and appoint Gnanasara Thero to the seat.”
Gnanasara Thero submitted nomination papers in the Kurunegala district but the papers were rejected on a technicality on Nomination Day.
Many OPPP activists campaigned during elections asking for voters to choose their party so that the BBS leader could get a seat in Parliament.
In the meantime on August 18, the Commission received another letter from Wimalatissa Thero withdrawing his own nomination and nominating Rathana Thero.
“Faced with this situation we sought the Attorney General’s opinion,” Deshapriya said.
However, the AG’s department ruled that the Commission should take the decision.
“It was not possible for us to take that decision so we felt that the Court should decide who the appointee should be,” Deshapriya said.
He told EconomyNext each of the three Commissioners had a different opinion as to who should be appointed.
Navaratne of the BBS is not impressed. “Why can’t the Commission take a decision,” he asks.
“By referring us to the Court they are saving themselves,” he charges. (“කොමිසම රවුලය් කැන්දය් දෙකම බේරා ගන්න හදනවා.”)
After the main Chapters of the Buddhist Clergy in Sri Lanka expressed displeasure over Buddhist Monks entering politics directly, none of the main political parties nominated Buddhist Clergy at the last General Election.
However, Rathana Thero and Gnanasara Thero came together to bring Monks to Parliament through the OPPP.
The party was defeated at the electoral district level but gathered enough votes throughout the country for a single member of the party to be nominated to Parliament through the National List which is allocated on a proportional basis. (Colombo August 25, 2020)