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TISL says hold Bond, PRECIFAC debate before campaign moratorium

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Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said yesterday it was concerned by the decision to convene Parliament on 8 February, when the moratorium on campaigning for the Local Government elections comes into effect. 

TISL believes that convening Parliament during the moratorium will provide an undue opportunity for political parties represented in Parliament to engage in campaigning for the elections, which unfairly disadvantages parties and independent groups not represented in Parliament.  

In a statement TISL highlight that there is ample opportunity between now and 8 February to convene a sitting of Parliament to debate the reports of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Treasury Bond Issuances and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption (PRECIFAC).

“Whilst in a Local Government election there are a gamut of factors which should motivate the voters’ choice, most importantly the suitability of the candidates, the coverage of the Bond and PRECIFAC debate would provide more information to the public, which will enhance the voters’ ability to make an informed decision,” TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere said.

Furthermore, if the debate is held on 8 February, media institutions which cover the debate could find themselves contravening the guidelines issued by the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka, aggravating the dilemma.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that in the alleged bond scam and the cases highlighted by PRECIFAC, the recourse to ensure justice and accountability is through the Judiciary. Law enforcement agencies, including the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), are empowered to file action on both matters without requiring a debate in Parliament. 

While recognising that the debate in Parliament on the Bond Commission and PRECIFAC reports is already overdue, TISL asserts the importance of ensuring that the Local Government elections are free and fair, and that the authority of the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka is not undermined.

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