EC Chairman denies ‘endorsing’ Gota’s citizenship validity | Daily News


 

‘Courts must rule for any disqualification’:

EC Chairman denies ‘endorsing’ Gota’s citizenship validity

The Elections Commission never made a determination on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s citizenship, EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told a final pre-election press briefing yesterday, contradicting claims made by the SLPP candidate’s lawyers.

Addressing news media at the Department of Government Information, Colombo, Deshapriya emphasized that the Elections Commission had never endorsed the dual citizenship renunciation certificate shown to them briefly by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s lawyer Ali Sabry.

Besieged by numerous questions about the on-going controversy about the SLPP candidate’s claims to a solely Sri Lankan citizenship, the EC Chairman Deshapriya was critical of the lawyer for Rajapaksa, accusing Sabry of “dragging the Commission” into the contentious citizenship issue.

“I regret that Sabry was trying to drag the Election Commission into this issue. If he possesses the required document, why not go public with it when the citizenship has been challenged, without trying to give the impression that the Election Commission endorsed it.

We have at no point given such endorsement,” he declared.

The Commission Chairman explained that dual citizenship was not a reason for a candidate’s nomination to be rejected under the terms of the law. “But it is a reason for disqualification. It is the Courts that must look into it,” Deshapriya explained. But he stopped short of commenting on the possible invalidation of an election outcome. “The courts are above us, and the people are above the courts,” Deshapriya said, dodging persistent questioning.

Responding to questions about the leaked audio recording of a conversation between Deshapriya himself and Rajapaksa’s top lawyer Mohammed Ali Sabry PC, the Chairman said it was a matter of telephone “ethics” by the senior lawyer.

The Chairman also said that the affidavit submitted by Candidate Rajapaksa mentions that the latter is not subjected to any disqualification, adding that he was satisfied with this statement. When a journalist questioned about the contradictions of the two affidavits of the same Candidate uploaded to the social media by the Election Commission and Sabry, Deshapriya said: “So what? We recognize the document we have in possession. If Sabry is lying, it is not up to us to deal with it.”

Asked whether Sabry asked for the permission to release the telephone conversation with him, Deshapriya remained non-committal stating that he would refrain from answering any question that would favour or damage any candidate.

The statement comes amid swirling speculation about SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s citizenship status, and anomalies in his documentation pertaining to the renunciation of his US citizenship. Grave questions have been raised over Rajapaksa’s documentation, after his lawyer President’s Counsel Ali Sabry released three separate affidavits the candidate allegedly prepared for the benefit of the Elections Commission. The affidavit finally uploaded on the Commission website did not match either of the documents Sabry released on his official Facebook page.

Deshapriya also clarified a claim made by Rajapaksa’s lawyer that all documentation pertaining to his citizenship renunciation from the US, had been submitted to the Elections Commission.

“Commission members met Sabry on August 26 on the latter’s request. Matters related to the election laws, electors’ register and qualifications and disqualifications to contest were discussed. When the issue of dual citizenship was mentioned, Sabry said his Candidate has already withdrawn it and showed us a certificate. Each of us had a brief look at it before returning it back. None of us went into authenticating or endorsing it. We were not interested.

 


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