The Presidential Election 2010 recorded unprecedented levels of abuse of public resources commencing from the Nomination Day (December 17 2009). The Program for Protection of Public Resources (PPPR) of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has received over 400 complaints (excluding complaints of election violence) as of 23rd January 2010, and upon investigation, have confirmed the following grave abuses:
(a)The Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses were regularly used to transport supporters of the UPFA for their meetings in all districts. The PPPR can confirm that 1042 SLTB buses were used for this purpose.
(b) State facilities were abused. These include the use of Temple Trees, and telecommunication, electricity & printing facilities of state enterprises such as Lake House.
(c) Involvement of Public Officials in the election campaign, violating the Establishment Code – particularly, Secretaries of certain Ministries, Secretary to the President and political appointees to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service.
(d) Certain public institutions and their facilities were used for the campaign of the President.
It is unfortunate to note that the non-appointment of an Election Commission under the 17th amendment to the constitution has paved the way for these violations to reach unprecedented levels. Further, the disregard for law and order, particularly the disregard of the directives of the Elections Commissioner by the Secretaries of Ministries and State Corporations, signified the failing democratic values in Sri Lanka. The abuses continued even during the “no campaign period” in the last two days prior to Election by illegally transferring senior police officers and by the government continuing with its campaign in public owned electronic and print media.
Throughout the election campaign, the State media blatantly flouted the election laws and regulations. All state media institutions were involved in propaganda work for the UPFA candidate, disregarding the directions issued by the Elections Commissioner. Thus the state media failed to provide an equal opportunity to other candidates in the Election.
The Elections Commissioner himself cannot ensure a free and fair election without the cooperation of the public services, candidates and political parties. An independent public service is a prerequisite for a free and fair poll. Further, the implementation of the 17th Amendment and the strengthening of the election laws are imperative to enhance the integrity of the election process.
The Presidential Election 2010 will go down in the electoral history in Sri Lanka as a shameful one, leaving scars on democracy. The blatant violation of laws governing integrity of the election process clearly undermined free choice of the people and distorted the true reflection of the choice of the Sri Lankans.
Note: The PPPR has released four interim reports, one special report on the cost of elections and one interim report on electronic media monitoring. The final report will be released in the month of February 2010.