Polls commissioner cautions President

Treating public officials during campaign period illegal

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has declared that it is inappropriate for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to entertain public officials after a Presidential election has been declared.

A communication in this regard has been sent to Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, by Mr. Dissanayake, a senior official in his Secretariat said yesterday. He did not want to be identified.
The message came in the wake of a move by the Presidential staff to entertain Customs officials to lunch yesterday. However, they did not turn up for this event.

Customs Chief Sarath Jayatillake had sent out a circular to Customs officers to attend a meeting with the President. He has said it was “compulsory” that all Customs officials, except those who are on duty should take part in the event.

However, the All Ceylon Customs Services Union representing Customs officers and all other sectors had raised objections with the Commissioner of Elections about the meeting.“We felt that the meeting was illegal as elections are pending,” Union Secretary J.A. Gunatillake told the Sunday Times
Though an official circular had been sent out informing Customs officials to attend the meeting, only verbal messages had been sent out that the event had been cancelled.

In the light of the Election Commissioners’ directive, it is not clear whether a lunch scheduled for 3, 000 police officers at Temple Trees today will take place. The officers in charge of police stations and five officers have been invited to this event.

A similar event is also being planned for several other sectors. They include owners of employment agencies and about 4,000 lawyers. Meanwhile the Elections Commissioner has sent out a detailed circular to the Secretaries of the President and Prime Minister, Ministry Secretaries, the Public Service Commission, the Police Commission, District Secretaries and Provincial Council Secretaries on the need to prevent the misuse of state vehicles, including helicopters, and buildings.

Ministry and Department heads have been asked to declare the names of the officials in charge of release of vehicles of the respective ministries. The Commissioner has warned that the circular should be strictly implemented to ensure that no Presidential candidate be promoted with the use of state resources.

He has also warned that it is not advisable to hold public functions including mobile services and opening ceremonies during the election period as politicians invited for these events usually make statements favourable to a particular candidate. Public officials who are also to be appointed for election duty taking part in these events is not appropriate.

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