The ex-General is not registered as a voter
It would go down as the irony of the 2010 Sri Lankan presidential election. Much to the disbelief and amusement of the people, just an hour before the polling was to close it was discovered that common opposition candidate retired General Sarath Fonseka is not registered as a voter.
All through the day, journalists were kept in suspense when and where the commander-turned-politician would cast his vote. “It is a secret that I cannot tell you now,” he told reporters as they persisted with the query.
Ultimately, it was the General himself who disclosed to a local television channel that he cannot vote as he has not registered himself with the Election Commission. “I want the people to know that I am fully qualified under Article 13 of the Constitution to contest for the presidential election,” he told the channel.
Subsequently his election campaign office quoted him as saying, “I applied to enter my name for the 2008 electoral lists. But unfortunately it has not been entered. The government misquoting this states I do not have citizenship in this country. During the past, I had more important work to attend than looking for my voting right. I had to fulfil my responsibilities for the Motherland and dedicate myself to defend its sovereignty.
“When I risked my life for the country no one questioned regarding my citizenship. However, now to safeguard their power the so-called patriots have started investigating my citizenship. This clearly indicates their bankruptcy.”
The only consolation for the General and the opposition backing him was that by the time he came out with the best kept secret of the last two months of the high-pitched election campaign, the curtains on the voting process were falling.
The news that the former Army Chief cannot vote spread like wild fire. “Have you heard the news? I do not believe it. How could it be?” was the refrain heard throughout the length and breadth of the nation.
As the nation animatedly debated the pros and cons of the presidential contender not being a voter, the Commissioner of Election deemed it necessary to put out a formal statement to the effect that not being voter does not disqualify a citizen from contesting the election.
According to a report on the Government Department of Information website, the retired General did not vote even in the 2005 presidential election and after obtaining his U.S. Green Card did not exercise his franchise in any election.
Election Commissioner Dayananada Dissanayaka in a press statement said a candidate need not be a registered voter nor cast his vote to be eligible to run for office.
So, if the General is indeed the choice of the people, he would be occupying the office of the President. Never mind he is not a voter.