Home / FT View/ Protecting public trust

Protecting public trust


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 12 June 2018 00:00


In Sri Lanka, trust between the public and their representatives is rare. In the past few weeks there has been a spate of incidents largely linked to acceptance of cash payments by several key politicians that has dented public trust and called for a rethink on how campaign financing should be managed to improve transparency and accountability.  

International Trade State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka are accused of accepting money from a company linked to Perpetual Group and its owner Arjuna Aloysious. Interestingly both Jayasekera and Senasinghe initially drew a distinction between accepting money for election campaigns and argued that it was not a conflict of interest because the cash was not for personal use. However, the problem is that these representatives hold public office and are expected to stand for public interest. Clearly this is only the tip of the iceberg in murky election campaign financing across all political parties and candidates. 

In fact the question of credibility filtered upwards into parliament to the extent that during appointments to the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Speaker Karu Jayasuriya noted that if committee positions were only be held by recognised trustworthy politicians then there would be no appointments made. As elections edge closer it is ever more imperative to track the disproportionate spending on election campaigns when compared with the legal income of politicians.   

Watchdogs have urged lawmakers to be mindful of the importance of publicly disclosing sources of campaign funding as a minimum requirement when drafting provisions to limit spending. The unregulated use of finances could have an adverse impact on the carrying out of free and fair elections. The disclosure of campaign contributions, both monetary and in kind (e.g. payments by a contributor to a third party supplier), will significantly reduce the avenues for election campaigns to facilitate illegal activity, principally money laundering and undue influence in the electoral process.

In other countries there are provisions for political parties to declare their finances within a certain time period since they were received. Even though the level of transparency varies there is a strong need for this element of elections to be addressed as well. As a process that spends public money to elect public representatives, who in turn direct public money, it is essential that the entire system is given a legal overhaul to be more efficient.

Sri Lanka already has some laws that call for asset declaration by candidates but these do not cover the heftier party finances. There is also little attention paid by the media to demand greater transparency on how candidates fund their campaigns or how funds flow between candidates and parties. Foundations established by various politicians or have political links also campaign on behalf of certain candidates or parties and accept donations for the same.  

Laws requiring the disclosure of political donations are intended to secure and uphold the integrity of the electoral system and, in turn, the integrity of the decision-making of the Government. The goal is to prevent corruption by exposing those who might seek to wheedle their particular causes to the forefront of policymaking or, indeed, buy influence. Knowledge about who has financed politicians’ campaigns helps to expose potential conflicts of interest. It assists in keeping leaders accountable.


Share This Article


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Great ‘Gamperaliya’: A great novel made into a great film by a great director

Saturday, 23 June 2018

‘Gamperaliya’ (Changes in the Village/Changement au Village) was the third feature film made by ace director Lester James Peries. It was released on 20 December 1963.The film was based on the famous novel of the same name written by the doyen of


Thushani takes Todos to new heights

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Thushani Rodrigo has always amazed me. From the very first day I met her, I have been in awe of her strength, courage and grace and constantly impressed by her creativity. The discipline and commitment she brings to her work, her farsightedness and h


Confusion in Maldivian opposition is to Yameen’s advantage

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The ongoing confusion in the ranks of the Maldivian opposition, barely three months before the presidential election, works to the advantage of the incumbent President and candidate of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Abdulla Yameen.


Implications of inward FDI on China: Lessons to be learnt

Saturday, 23 June 2018

China overtook the United States to become the largest trading nation in the world in 2014. China is the second largest economy in the world behind the United States and the largest exporter in the world. It is referred to as the factory of the world


Columnists More