( March 19, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) While lodging a strong protest against the blatant violation of election law by all section of the State Media and some private institution, at the very outset I wish to point out the law regarding election campaigning is very clear, and it is your duty as the Commissioner of Elections to control all matters in respect of elections including election campaigns, leader of the opposition and the United National party pointed in a letter to the Election Commissioner, today.
The full text of the letter is follows;
March 19, 2014
Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya
Commissioner of Elections
Department of Elections
Media Coverage of Election Campaign – Blatant Violation of Election Law
I write further to the letter dated 13/3/2014 addressed to you by the General Secretary of the United National Party.
While lodging a strong protest against the blatant violation of election law by all section of the State Media and some private institution, at the very outset I wish to point out the law regarding election campaigning is very clear, and it is your duty as the Commissioner of Elections to control all matters in respect of elections including election campaigns.
The media (Daily Mirror 18/3/2014 page 1) reports the Media Ministry Secretary and also the Director General of Information having taken up the position that the President had every right to participate at state events as the Head of State.
I note that you yourself have disagreed with this position.
Perhaps these two gentlemen are not aware that the President is also the Head of a Political Party which is the contesting at the current Provincial Council Elections.
When participating in so called “State Functions” the President during this period is not addressing the gathering as the President but as a head of a political party as part of that party’s election campaign.
In this context, it will be relevant to quote from the guidelines issued by you in this connection.
“10. Coverage by the Radio or Television of speeches and views expressed by the President and Prime Minister or Ministers should be treated as a coverage given for the political party to which he belongs and therefore leaders of rival political parties contesting elections should be given similar programmes. The print media should similarly provide equal space and priority to all the contesting political parties and independent groups in publishing special discussions/reporting of campaign meetings. Although it is not possible to provide equal air time and space in the newspapers when there is a large number of parties and independent groups, any party, independent group or a candidate should not be given special favours in air time or in the print media to promote its or his/her election or to cause any disadvantage to a party, independent group of any candidate.”
It is also a matter of note that there is nothing in the Constitution entitling the President to obtain media coverage as a matter of right.
The President and his party are also seen using state resources, such as helicopters and the like for which we are reliably informed no payment is made.
It is our position therefore that every instance of media coverage of the President during the period of elections should be matched by equal coverage for me as the Leader of the Opposition.
I trust you will take note of this and take necessary action in the circumstances to ensure a free and fair election campaign.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP
Leader of the Opposition