The coronavirus pandemic has created an uneven playing field, much to the detriment of minor political parties sans the wherewithal to cover increased expenses of electioneering, says JVP leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte on Sunday, March 15, he said that many parties had been hit badly by the situation prevailing in the country.
“The spread of coronavirus has hindered our countrywide campaign. We are contesting under the banner of the National People’s Power and have decided to suspend all our main rallies, public meetings and pocket meetings. Health experts, epidemiologists and the World Health Organization have issued warnings that the coming two weeks would be very crucial to Sri Lanka. Therefore, we have decided to suspend all our campaigning activities,” he said.
“The period allocated for election campaigning is from March 19 to April 22. It is the time that we need to go to the people explaining our programme to convince them why should they vote for us. But owing to the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus, we have a serious challenge. We have a difficulty in informing people of our policies, manifesto, symbol and preferential numbers. We cannot rely on TV advertisements like the parties with money because we cannot bear that cost. A 15-second TV advertisement costs around Rs. 450,000 rupees. The NPP cannot afford such high costs. We call on the media institutions to understand the situation and give balanced coverage to mitigate the situation. The basic means for a party such as ours is to go for house to house campaigning. Now, the coronavirus has blocked us from that basic method of canvassing,” he also said.
Mr. Dissanayake also said that when talking of difficulties his party was accused of promoting the postponing of elections. “It is up to the Elections Commission to decide whether the election should be postponed or not. There was a SAARC leaders’ teleconference, where all other leaders spoke of their contributions to prevent the spread of the disease and measures to bring relief. What did our president say? He said come what may, he would hold the elections. Now you understand how our leaders have understood the problem and are planning to face it. He has opted for consolidation of his power over the interests of the people,” he pointed out.
Lal Wijenayake of the United Left Front and Sinhala novelist Jayatilaka Kammellaweera of Jana Niyamu Kalakaruwo also addressed the media after NPP leaders signed the nominations papers for the election. Among those present were JVP General Secretary – Tilvin Silva, Lakshman Nipunarachchi, Attorney-at-Law Sunil Watagala, Prof. Chandana Abeyratne and Wasantha Dissanayake.