By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island
The Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday sought an explanation from the National Election Commission (NEC) regarding the registration of the New Democratic Front (NDF) as a political party in spite of its leader Shalila Moonasinge being a British national.
National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP posed the question to the NEC at a media briefing called by the JO at Dr N.M. Perera Centre.
Weerawansa said the NEC certainly owed an explanation to the public in the wake of Moonasinghe being arrested over his alleged involvement in stealing money from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank.
JO parliamentary group leader and MP Dinesh Gunawardena, UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Prof. G.L. Peiris and Prof. Tissa Vitharana backed Weerawansa’s call for full disclosure of the circumstances under which the NDF had received political recognition in 2009.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has informed the Fort Magistrate Court that Moonasinghe was a British national, while the other person remanded in connection with the Taiwan bank robbery held dual UK and Sri Lankan citizenship.
MP Weerawansa pointed out that presidential election candidates, the then Gen Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena had contested elections in Jan 2010 and Jan 2015, respectively, on the NDF ticket under the swan symbol.
The NDF is a breakaway faction of the Democratic United National Front (DUNF) formed by a faction of the UNP opposed to the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s authoritarian rule.
Weerawansa called for exhaustive review of the procedures currently in place for registering political parties in the wake of the revelation of the shocking lapse on the part of the previous Election Department.
The NEC was established in Nov 2015 in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The NEC comprises Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), N.J. Abeysekera, PC and Prof. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole.
The NFF Leader said a JVP led group that included Gen. Fonseka contested parliamentary polls in 2010 on the NDF ticket. Among those who had been elected on the NDF ticket on that occasion were Gen. Fonseka, Arjuna Ranatunga and Tiran Alles.
The government appointed Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran as Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in January knowing well a foreigner couldn’t be appointed. Now, the same government had appointed a British passport holder as Chairman of the government owned Litro Gas, Sri Lanka’s largest LPG supplier, the MP said.
Weerawansa questioned the legitimacy of those who had secured office after having contested on the NDF ticket.
The former JVP propaganda Secretary said that they expected NEC Chairman to address their concerns, bravely as he did during the previous administration.
Director (Legal), NEC, Nimal G. Punchihewa yesterday told The Island that as the NDF had been registered as a political party in accordance with the Parliament Elections Act (No 1 of 1981) there was a requirement to review the relevant procedures.
Punchihewa acknowledged there had been an obvious lapse on their part due to shortcomings in the registration process.
Election Commission of Sri Lanka in its website identified NDF as the 34th registered political party out of 64 political parties. The website named attorney at law Ms Sharmila Perera as its Secretary.
Ms Perera wasn’t available for comment.