Business Times

Unethical, and possibly unlawful, election propaganda by ICTA

Point of View

In the course of writing an article on the apparent end of constitutionalism in Sri Lanka, I asked myself what I personally could do to resist the egregious lawless behaviour that caused me to write it.
My question was why the populace allowed this feudal behaviour. How could I be the change I wanted to see? While thinking about this, I happened to see a shamelessly partisan street hoarding that had been put up by an organization I had made a small contribution to establish and fund: the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, a private limited company fully owned by the government of Sri Lanka. I decided to collect additional evidence including a copy of the ICTA newsletter entitled Catalyst that contained election propaganda for the President.

I then wrote the following letter to each of the members of the ICTA Board, with copies to the Elections Commissioner and the World Bank, which continues to fund e Sri Lanka, the program ICTA was created to implement. No response to my letter yet, but I was pleased to see the offending hoardings taken down on December 12. This suggests that professionals talking to professionals can yield results and slow down the slide from the rule of law. This may also be a useful decentralized way of collecting evidence for an election petition should the need arise .

7 January 2009
Dear Member of the Board
of ICTA (Pvt) Limited,
I write as a citizen, as a former member of the ICTA Board, and as one of the people responsible for designing e Sri Lanka, for setting up the organization and obtaining the funds. Attached please find evidence of election propaganda by ICTA. These actions may have been taken without your knowledge or approval, but the Board is responsible.

We established ICTA as an entity above politics, for example hiring those associated with the opposition at the time such as Mr Dilanthe Withanage and Mr Athula Pushpakumara. The then leader of the opposition (now President) was invited to participate in events within ICTA premises.

I hope you will discipline the responsible officers and restore ICTA to its non-partisan position. Otherwise you will be held accountable for the politicization and destruction of yet another organization designed for the common good. If professionals do not speak for good governance, there will be no good governance. I hope you will play your part.

Prof Rohan Samarajiva

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