- Says EC has criticised mode of payment saying it was politicised
By Sandun A Jayasekera
The government has decided not to pay the Rs. 5,000 grant to Samurdi and poorest of poor families in June on aspersions made by the Elections Commission (EC) about the payments made in April and May, Cabinet spokesman and Minister Bandula Gunawardhana said yesterday.
Minister Gunawardhana said the EC has criticized the mode of payment in the last two months alleging that it had been politicised with the aim of attempting to gain a political advantage to the government at a time a general elections has been declared.
Addressing the media at the weekly cabinet news briefing, Minister Gunawardhana lamented that the EC has given a political colour to a bona fide programme launched by the government to bail out millions of Sri Lankans who had been severely affected as a direct result of the COVID 19 viral infection.
The letter addressed to the Secretary to President, Secretary to PM, Cabinet Secretary, Secretary of the Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, Treasury Secretary and Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs by EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya says that he has received complaints that the project to pay Rs. 5,000 has been carried out as a political promotional campaign of political parties affiliated to the government.
“Not only individuals or civil society organisations but the General Secretaries of political parties have alleged that the distribution of Rs. 5,000 has a political colouring. Therefore, make all relevant officials aware that this financial support programme must not be used to promote a political party or a candidate,” he has stressed.
The position of the EC is that whether there is a genuine requirement to pay the financial benefit to poor and destitute families when the public can attend to their day to day normal functions and the country has returned to normalcy. If the government continues the payments, the government must prove that there was no campaign at all to promote government politics, Mr. Deshapriya has noted in his letter.
Further, the EC requests the government to remove provincial and village level politicians from the cash distribution project and also direct attention to the complaints that Grama Niladharis have voluntarily withdrawn from the programme, Mr. Deshapriya said.
Commenting further on the stoppage of the distribution of Rs. 5,000 for June, Minister Gunawardana said the government was in dire strait financially and had to scrape through the bottom of the Treasury to pay Rs. 5,000 to senior citizens, oldest citizens over 100 years of age, families of patients with chronic kidney disease, all self employed people who have lost their income, daily wage earners, school bus and van drivers, barbers, private bus crews, Samurdhi beneficiary families and many more numbering 7.4 million and at a cost of over Rs. 50 billion in April alone.
“Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaks’s proposal to obtain necessary funds to pay Rs. 5,000 for May as a loan from the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank offering the Samurdhi Fund as collateral got the cabinet approval, he added.
- Minister Gunawardhana lamented that the EC has given a political colour to a bona fide programme launched by the government to bail out millions of Sri Lankans