It is undoubtedly the irony of the 2010 Sri Lankan presidential election. Much to the disbelief and amusement of the people of the island nation, just an hour before polling was to close, it was discovered that the common opposition candidate retired General Sarath Fonseka does not figure in the electoral list as a voter.
All through the day, journalists were kept in suspense as to when and where the commander-turned- politician would cast his vote. “It is a secret that I can not tell you now”, the General said to persistent queries from reporters.
Ultimately, it was the General who disclosed the information in the course of a conversation with 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.
The only consolation for the General and the opposition backing him was that by the time he came out with this well kept secret, it was curtains on the voting process.
The news spread like wild fire. “Have you heard the news? I don’t believe it! How could it be?” was the refrain heard throughout the length and breadth of the island 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 a voter does not disqualify a citizen from contesting the election to the most powerful office in the country.
According to a report on the Government Department of Information web site, 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 in the country.
Elections Commissioner Dayananada Dissanayaka in a press statement said that a candidate need not be a registered voter nor cast his vote in order to be eligible to run for office and thereby Sarath Fonseka is eligible to run for the post of the President of Sri Lanka.
So, if Gen. (retd) is indeed the choice of the people, he would be occupying the office of the current incumbent. Never mind that he is not a voter.