- one of the long-standing challenges in Sl elections has been the abuse of state resources during the campaign period.
By Sandun A. Jayasekera
The Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) while expressing its regrets and displeasure over the abuse of state resources allegedly by the government raised concerns on the extension of the polling date of the general election by the Election Commission (EC) and claimed that setting the date for the election for June 20 could be inconsistent with the Constitution in terms of convening the new Parliament.
This, in turn, could call to question the legitimacy of both the election and its ensuing result, the TISL added.
The Executive Director of the TISL, Asoka Obeyesekere in a letter to Chairman of the EC, Mr Mahinda Deshapriya with copies to two other members yesterday said that though the issue of the misuse of state resources were beyond the mandate of the TISL, it was a concern that the announced election date (June 20) could be found to be inconsistent with the Constitution (Art. 70(5)) in terms of convening the new Parliament and it in turn could be called to question the legitimacy of both the election and its ensuing result.
Given the extraordinary times, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) as an election monitoring organisation focusing on the abuse of state resources understands the difficult decisions that the Election Commission has to take. This includes balancing public safety, the safety of election officials and the need for free and fair elections, Mr Obeyesekere stressed.
“We are conscious of the essential relief work which presently has to take place. We are also aware that one of the long-standing challenges in Sri Lankan elections has been the abuse of state resources during the campaign period. In light of relief work having to take place during the campaign period, we believe the current circular (2020/03) issued on March 3, on state resource abuse is inadequate for these exceptional times. The circular itself recognises the election date as April 25, which was fixed prior to the full understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact,” he noted.
“The Commission should therefore consider updating the circular on state resource abuse, which would incorporate specific provisions around the current context surrounding relief efforts. This would aid public servants and observers in distinguishing between relief work and state resource abuse. This distinction is essential given that relief work will need to inevitably continue in an efficient and effective manner during the campaign period. Given the restrictions on movement, there will be an unavoidable impact on the mobility of observers at the upcoming genaral election and the deterrent effect on potential violators by the presence of observers will also be significantly reduced. This further reinforces the need to update the circular to ensure public officials and the public were equipped to be ever more vigilant,” Mr. Obeyesekere emphasised.
“The TISL hopes that you will consider the matters raised above in ensuring a free and fair election,” Mr. Obeyesekere said.