Polls Chief urges action against abuse of State resources during elections

Monday, 2 March 2015 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Waruni Paranagamage Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said legal action would be initiated against parties and candidates who abused State resources in the run-up to the presidential election. Addressing the gathering at the launch of ‘Electoral Integrity,’ the final report on presidential election monitoring by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) at the BMICH lastweek, the Commissioner emphasised on the need for a qualitative political system to establish a qualitative election system in the country. The report reveals that the 2015 presidential election period was one of the most corrupt periods in Sri Lanka’s history. The Commissioner asserted that the report published by TISL would benefit the commission to present the allegations with facts and evidence to the Human Rights Commission. For its research, TISL had used the Program for Protection of Public Resources (PPPR) approach, designed by three civil society organisations in 2001. The committee has selected independent research samples for consideration based on an inventory of State resources, including buildings and furniture, vehicles and buses, in addition to media monitoring and other significant resources. Deshapriya said the Elections Commission remained on alert for post-election complaints, which it would submit to the Human Rights Commission and Auditor General for further investigation. The TISL also has also taken into account headlines, advertisements and techniques used to favour candidates and election-related coverage by print, radio and TV media. Four provincial coordinators from within the TISL team were directly responsible for collecting and verifying information received from cadre stationed in the field. While thanking TISL for its support, he emphasised that monitoring the election was the duty of the Commissioner and Elections Commission officials, while others could only observe elections and report on them. The Commissioner further asserted that the submissions and legal actions in relation to the allegations would be with the aim of working towards a qualitative election system in the country rather than imposing penalties. The report has highlighted the budgets of candidates, behaviour of voters, use of SLTB buses, distribution of goods, sil cloth and mobile phones during election campaigning. The Commissioner further stated that TISL had been linked with the Commission to ensure a fair election and obtain information of the country’s pre- and post-election conditions. “However, what is surprising is that currently many independent organisations are not as keen on submitting complaint letters to us, although they showed a lot of enthusiasm in this regard in the run-up to the election,” he added. He requested independent committees and organisations in the county to support the commission by providing information in order to ensure future action. Speaking on media ethics and practices during the election period, Deshapriya asserted that although they were able to monitor State and private media in relation to legal violations, there was no mechanism in place in relation to social media such as Facebook and websites. He asserted that it was important to change the country’s political culture in order to prevent the abuse of State resources. The event was attended by some of the presidential candidates, politicians, lawyers, civil society and trade union activists and members of the TISL team.