In the 2006 by-election, Milinda Moragoda, who was Ranil’s closest adviser and the Colombo District Member at that time, exerted a great influence that Sirisena Cooray should be nominated for the position of Mayor of the Colombo Municipal Council. Milind’s influence also received great strength from Sirasa Media’s. Raja Mahendran, then chairman of Sirasa, who was a close friend of Cooray. After becoming the leader of the UNP, Ranil did not give Coorey any place within the party.
Cooray formed a separate party and ran in the provincial council elections. Cooray’s party suffered a crushing defeat in that election. After that, Milinda took over the task of patching up Ranil and Cooray. But Ranil did not want to give Cooray the mayoral candidacy. He nominated Cooray due to the influence of Milind and Raja Mahendran, the Chairman of Sirasa. Lasantha, the editor of the Leader newspaper who was close to Ranil at that time, was a friend of Cooray. He also pressured Ranil to nominate Cooray. Ranil nominated Cooray.
By this time, not even a year had passed since Mahinda became the President. Mahinda’s goal was to win the Colombo Municipal Council, which the SLFP could never win. Ranil also knew that Mahinda would fight to the death to win the Colombo Municipal Council. Mahinda also knew that Ranil nominated Cooray unwillingly. Assistant Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya was in charge of the Colombo Municipal Council nominations for the 2006 local government election. Finding fault in the UNP nomination list, he rejected the nomination list.
He could have called for fresh nominations and postponed the election, but he did not. The UNP was helpless. Finally, Cooray’s team decided to support an independent team, which got Ranil’s approval. Mahinda was salivating to win the Colombo Municipal Council. But the independent group, supported by the UNP, won the Colombo Municipal Council.
The next municipal elections were in 2010. In the 2010 municipal council elections, the nomination lists of the SLFP-led People’s Front were overwhelmingly rejected. But the election commissioner’s office decided to hold separate elections for those municipal councils and regional councils in 2011 without having elections for the rejected nominations. Assistant Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya took this decision. Because even then Election Commissioner Dayananda Dishanayake was in office, Assistant Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya made all the decisions in the commissioner’s office.
In the 2006 Colombo Municipal Council election, Mahinda Deshapriya did not decide to call for fresh nominations; instead, he rejected nominations and held the election on another date. But in 2011, when the nominations of the Sri Lankan People’s Front were rejected, he called for new nominations and allowed the voting to be held on another day.
The following is a part of the gurudawa analysis published on March 3, 2011, questioning Mahinda Deshapriya’s duplicity.
During the 2011 LG-polls, not only his corruption but also that of the Assistant Election Commissioner, Mahinda Deshapriya, was revealed by postponing the government nominations, which were rejected by the officials of his own department even before the court rulings of the elections of the local government bodies were made known.
It was this Assistant Election Commissioner, Mahinda Deshapriya, who rejected the list of nominations submitted by the UNP to the Colombo Municipal Council in the 2006 local government election as flawed. Then the UNP went to court.
‘Then why was there no urgency for the Election Commissioner and the Assistant Election Commissioner to postpone the Colombo Municipal Council elections…?’ Therein lays the problem.
‘Why are the election commissioners who dared to hold the Colombo Municipal Council election even without the elephant following the law to the letter, then, postponing elections when the beetle leaf is not there?
When Election Commissioner Dayananda retires, Assistant Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya was on the verge of taking over as Election Commissioner.
The 2010 presidential election was conducted not by Election Commissioner Dayanda but by Assistant Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya. Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka said that Election Commissioner Dayananda Dishanayake was missing when the votes were counted on the 2010 presidential Election Day. Also, an American WikiLeaks cable revealed that 08 district secretaries had been ordered to send the results to the presidential palace before sending them to the election office.
The WikiLeaks cable message stated that these districts included Ampara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee. Elmo Perera, the lawyer of the Election Commissioner’s Office, challenged Dayananda to tell where Election Commissioner Dayanand and his wife were on the night of the election. Dayananda avoided it and said that he was stressed. Also, after the election, bundles of ballot papers voted in favour for Sarath Fonseka were found in a ditch in Ratnapura district.
After Mahinda won the 2010 presidential election, Mahinda Deshapriya became the Election Commissioner and did not answer these questions. He led the 2010 presidential election. He knew that Mahinda wanted to win and Ranil wanted to defeat his party’s candidate, Fonseka. During the election, while party members were killed, Ranil issued a statement on the evening of the election saying that the election was a free and fair election. Fonseka wants to file a petition against the results but U.N.P. did not supported the move.
Next, in the 2019 presidential election, Mahinda made Gotabhaya the candidate. Ranil reluctantly gave candidature to Sajith. There was a question about Gotabaya’s American citizenship. But Mahinda Deshapriya did not check his American citizenship withdrawal documents when his nominations were filled.
Nagananda Kodituvakku, who was a presidential candidate, filed a case and said that the Chairman of the Election Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya, had committed a fraud. Mahinda Deshapriya later said in a telephone conversation with Kodituvukku that it was not his duty to question Gotabhaya’s citizenship. Even at this time Mahinda Deshapriya knew that Mahinda wanted to win the presidential election and Ranil wanted to see Sajith lose.
Gota wins the presidential election. After that, Covid-19 spread in Sri Lanka. He himself admitted that Mahinda Deshapriya sought Gota’s help to bring his son who was abroad to Sri Lanka. Mahinda Deshapriya, as the Chairman of the Election Commission, announced Gota’s birthday, June 20, as the 2020 general election date.
This is the history of Mahinda Deshapriya. He is a close friend of Mahinda and Ranil. When Mahinda and Ranil made a deal to defeat Cooray in 2006, defeat Fonseka in 2010, and defeat Sajith in 2019, it was Mahinda Deshapriya who led the election. Now Mahinda and Ranil are afraid of the elections. Ranil recently nominated Mahinda Deshapriya to a committee to change the local government election system, probably because he wanted the deal to postpone the election.
The number of local government councilors increased from 2,000 to 4,000 when Mahinda Deshapriya was the Election Commissioner. That was in 2012 when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the president. Local government councilors 4,000 increase to 8,000 when Mahinda Deshapriya was the chairman of the Election Commission. That was during the Maithri-Ranil government. Now Mahinda Deshapriya himself, who is on retirement, has come to reduce the 8,000 to 4,000. Audit reports have stated that more than three crores were spent to make the constitution during Gota’s government.
It is not known how much the committees appointed to make 2,000,to 4,000, 4,000, to 8,000 local government members cost. I don’t know how much it will cost Mahinda Deshapriya’s committee, which is now making 8,000, to 4,000. Mahinda Deshapriya, who has retired, is back on the scene. He may be able to save Mahinda and Ranil and find a job again for himself.
By Upul Joseph Fernando