A day after the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna made a deposit on behalf of its presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Elections Commission, fresh controversy has erupted over the former defence secretary being registered to vote since 2017 under a NIC number that has been defunct since October 2016.
The revelations followed confirmation by the Police Headquarters that the CID had reported progress to the Colombo Chief Magistrate on its investigation into alleged irregularities pertaining to Rajapaksa’s passport and “other matters” last Friday, and disputing media reports that the CID’s request to arrest the former Defence Secretary had been rejected by the Chief Magistrate.
Media reports yesterday said the NIC used by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to register as a voter in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 electoral lists had been invalidated by the Department for Registration of Persons (DRP) in October 2016.Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Minister and UNP Organiser for Kotte, Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday further reinforced the revelations publicly yesterday, by tweeting extracts of the Kotte Electoral Register that clearly shows Rajapaksa was registered to vote under his pre-2016 NIC.
In an independent search of the National Elections Commission website, the Sunday Observer found that Rajapaksa was registered to vote in the 2019 presidential election also under the same allegedly defunct NIC.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer Minister Dr De Silva said that this was not conduct acceptable for a Presidential candidate.
“All this is very strange. You are supposed to have you proper identity card number in your electoral register. Let’s say he got it wrong the first year he should have corrected it in the second year or even at the third year. This is my electorate. I had no idea about this until I saw it in the paper this morning. Then I asked the relevant person to send me these documents,” Dr de Silva said. “This is just wrong,” he added.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already responded to the allegations about what he has called the “confusion” over his ID number. The former defence secretary claimed that although he filled the form with the new ID number and the Department of Registration of Persons had informed the Elections Department of the new identity card number what appears in the electoral list is the old ID number. “‘I filled the form stating the new ID number and mentioned the old ID number within brackets for reference purposes since the new ID number they issue bears a different form of numbering whereas the normal identity card number is derived from the birthday of the person. Also once the new identity card number is given to a person the Department of Registration of Persons informs all relevant government departments about it.
As such they have informed of this change to the Elections Department as well. But for some reason what appears in the electoral registers is the old ID number,’ Rajapaksa said in his clarification.
But State Minister De Silva said that when a registered elector goes to vote at a polling booth, the ID number is read out loud. “It should have been corrected if it was a mistake. This whole thing about the renunciation and then not getting the Sri Lankan citizenship the proper way now they are saying that there are completely different ID used at the electoral register. Too many stories about the ID. After a point one starts to wonder what is actually going on,” he said.
De Silva said the question was about whether the SLPP candidate respects the law – “or whether he doesn’t give a damn about the law.”
The Elections Commission could not be immediately reached for comment.
Meanwhile election monitoring bodies have raised concerns of the National Elections Commission dragging its feet over the investigations into allegations that Rajapaksa’s name was in the Mulkirigala electoral registry while he was not a citizen of Sri Lanka.
“It is the right of the people to know the truth especially at a time when they are getting ready to vote at a presidential election. They should not be deprived of information,” a head of an Election Monitoring mission told the Sunday Observer.