The Problem of Unfit LG Nominations: Viewed from Jaffna
Supreme Court Errs
The law is very clear on who may not be local government candidates. It specifies in Section 31 of the Local Authorities Act, the reasons for which nominations may be rejected by returning officers – those who did not sign the affidavit or did not pay a deposit, those whose papers were not signed by their party secretary, etc. Election Administrators say the Supreme Court has wrongly ruled that nominations may be rejected only for the reasons listed in Section 31.
As a result, even where nominations for other reasons are explicitly prohibited in the law have to be accepted. For example, Maharagama is a Council were many neither registered to vote there nor eligible to be so registered and therefore cannot be candidates, had their nominations accepted by the Election Commission and elected. These reasons for rejection, although in the law, are not among the reasons for rejection given in Section 31.
However, since many who were illegally nominated at Maharagama because of the Supreme Court’s short-sightedness, fortunately, resigned. This spared the Maharagama folk the agony of being burdened with pretending representatives and the expense of paying such ineligible representatives.
“The Election Commission has also failed the people by not insisting on a change in the law and taking to the streets,” remarked an ITAK representative.
Two Court of Appeals cases from Jaffna might be the mere tip of the iceberg. We do not know how many other ineligible representatives have been elected and never will know unless some motivated citizens get the money and courage to go to court and the courts rule with greater perception. In Jaffna, people are beginning only now to wake up to the fact that they have ineligible representatives.
Two court cases relating to the election of two different representatives at the Jaffna Municipal Council (JMC) have been filed recently. Both Petitioners were represented by M.A. Sumanthiran, MP, PC.
One case was by N. Logathayalan, an elected ITAK representative on the JMC (CA217/2018), against the election of the EPDP’s Velummylum Kuhenthiran of 223 Stanley Road, Jaffna asking for his removal because he is a dual citizen of Canada. Ironically this address is the Sridhar Theatre address and not a residence. The EPDP, according to papers filed in court in another case by the owners of Sridhar Theatre, has acquired the theatre unlawfully and is refusing to quit. Can a theatre forcibly taken over from its true owners be listed as a residence in nomination papers?
The law seems very clear in saying that those who owe allegiance to a foreign power are not eligible to be nominated for election to a local government authority. This case may hinge on whether a Commonwealth country is a foreign power. In particular, is Canada a foreign power? Mr Sumanthiran has argued that after we became a republic in 1972, it is a foreign power. There is also confusion over the differing wordings in the Sinhalese, Tamil and English versions of the law. The case could turn on what the legislature intended.
A stay order prevents Mr Kuhenthiran from functioning as a Member of the JMC until the end of the case.
Mr V. Manivannan
The second case is CA 218/2018 asking for the removal of the Tamil Congress’ V. Manivannan from being a JMC representative. The Petitioner is N. Logathayalan, an ITAK Member of the JMC. A lawyer, Manivannan was until recently, the bright face of the Tamil Congress in Jaffna. He threatened in a public speech and a party newsletter to launch an attack on a member of the Election Commission. He seemed brash and unassailable, He seemed sure that the police could be handled.
He faced elections on 10 Feb. 2018 for a seat on the JMC and prevailed. He was subsequently proposed as Mayor for Jaffna. Everything seemed going well for him. Then matters began to unravel.
First, he lost his bid to be Mayor when Emmanuel Arnold of the ITAK who was openly opposed for being a Christian from the coastal belt was elected Mayor in preference to a Vellala Hindu. Second, hot on the heels of this fiasco, CA 217/2018 was filed against his candidature by Stevenson Ronoldon, a voter within the JMC area, by alleging Mr Manivannan’s ineligibility to be a member of the Jaffna Municipal Council (JMC) based on residence.
Court papers show that Mr Manivannan was not registered as a voter inside the Jaffna Municipal Council area, and to all appearances had no eligibility to be so registered in Jaffna – the either-or clause to be eligible to be a candidate His party had published photographs of his voting elsewhere (in Kokkuvil West). His nomination papers had the fudged Jaffna address of Sir Pon Ramanathan Veethy for him with no house number. In court, he claimed an address in Vannarponnai within the JMC but was not registered as a resident there on the householders’ list. The chief householder at the Vannarponnai address was or had been a Tamil Congress candidate. For his identity card issued by the JMC after it met in March 2018, he had given his Kokkuvil address where he had his vote.
It appears that after filing nominations Mr Manivannan bought a property at Sir Pon Ramanathan Veethy. His attorney, Ms Kajapiriya Manickavasagar, also of Kokkuvil, has drawn up a deed where the deed requires the date in four places. In the first three places, it is dated 29 December 2017 which appears to have been altered to 10 December 2017. In the fourth place, the date remains 29 December 2017. The stamp duty on the land transaction has to be paid at the Municipality. The receipt for this stamp duty has to be pasted on the deed and it is dated 29 Dec. 2018. The stamp duty receipt states that the date of registration is 29 December. The deed states that it was filed at the land registry on 2 Jan. 2018.
The significance of these dates is that nomination was on 21 Dec. 2018. The date of the deed will establish whether he was eligible to be a Jaffna candidate – was it filed before or after the date of nomination? The judges had suggested that because of all this confusion Mr Manivannan might like to resign. He wanted time to think about it.
As these problems mounted, Tamil Congress sources say that Mr Manivannan has sounded his party on whether he may resign as JMC Member before the court decides on these two cases. Whether such resignation would close the cases without settling two major outstanding issues remains a big question. First, if he is ineligible to be a JMC Member what would happen to salaries and perks he has drawn up to the time of resignation? Secondly, if the deeds have been truly forged, would he escape a fraud investigation on that count? Would that affect his registration as an attorney-at-law? The next court date is 21 Sept. 2018.
In the meantime, the case filed by the police against Mr Manivannan on threatening a public official, Case B/R 201/2018, was called last on 6 Aug. 2018 and resulted in his being released on Rs. 50,000 bail. The next court date in that matter is 14 September 2018.
“When the Tamil Congress cannot get its house in order, how can it run the municipality? Just imagine the plight of the municipality if Manivannan had been elected mayor and then told by the courts that he cannot function!” remarked a senior resident of the Jaffna Municipality.