‘People fund development projects, not politicians’

Public funded projects do not belong to one party; allocations for them are made regardless of party politics, Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said as he warned political parties not to mislead people by using public infrastructure projects.

He was addressing a media conference held at the Election Secretariat in Rajagiriya yesterday. The Chairman highlighted the responsibilities of public servants to remain apolitical in the upcoming polls.

“Postal voting cards for many districts were sent. A few more will be sent today (19),” Deshapriya said. He said postal voting for Police and officials at District Secretariats and election officers would take place on January 22.

“Persons working in other government officers, army camps, Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) depots and offices, provincial educational offices, national schools and provincial schools will vote on January 25 and 26,” he said.

“Those who are unable to vote on the dates, will be allowed to cast their vote on February 1 at the offices of the Elections Commission island-wide,” he said.

“Each party can send a party representative who does not work at any of these government offices to monitor the polls,” Deshapriya said.

The Elections Commission has taken steps to send a list of candidates contesting for each ward along with the postal ballot papers. Deshapriya explained that though the Elections Commission is not bound to do this by law, they have adopted the measure to help the government servants take a more informed decision.

The Commission has taken measures to paste posters in government offices stating that staff of them need not be ‘grateful’ or ‘bound’ to any candidate for having undertaken public projects using local government funds, “This is not an attack on any party but remember, the roads were built using public funds not party funds,” Deshapriya said.

The Chairman noted that they have managed to control distributing goods using state resources but now find that candidates are distributing goods using their own funds.

“Take the goods, but don’t sell your vote. You are not bound to anyone,” he said and added, “Politicians have a very poor view of our people. They believe that they can win votes by giving a child school books. We ask the people not to be fooled,” he said.

The Chairman of the Commission emphasised that its Extraordinary Gazette, ‘Media guidelines under article 104b(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’ published on December 4, specifically asked that not only print, electronic and digital media, but also all propaganda to stop their political programs 48 hours prior to the election. “It also applied to social media and telephone services,” he said.

“Teams have been deployed district wise to take down complaints and act on them,” Deshapriya said. Hambantota and Tissamaharama had the highest complaints on illegal display of posters. We removed all of them,” he said.

Political parties have been asked to use minimal decoration 400m from the area where political meetings are held and to have the major decorations and cut outs only at the meeting place.

“This local government election has fared much better than the ones in the past when taken into account a few incidences of violence occurred in the period,” Deshapriya said. He appealed to all citizens to report cases of violations and violence to help keep the election free and fair.

“The Elections Commission works slower than God, but we will come after you, before or after the election and action will be taken,” Deshapriya warned. 


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