Public servants violate polls laws

Elections Commissioner complains of UPFA organisers in state media; diplomats, senior officials doing political work

The involvement of public sector officials including diplomats in the ongoing presidential election campaign has set a poser to the Department of Elections.

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake, has in writing told Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Ministry Secretaries that it would be a violation of the Establishments Code (Chapter 32) for public officials to engage in party propaganda activities.

Elections officials said yesterday they had received complaints from opposition parties that state officials were openly campaigning for President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Most of the complaints were in the media sector. Some of the key figures in the state run media were UPFA organisers in several electoral districts, the complaints said.

However Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane said four Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organisers, two of whom were holding senior positions in state-run media organisations, would resign in accordance with guidelines issued by the Commissioner.

The guidelines states that any employee or any member of the board of the broadcasting, telecasting and newspaper institution identified as holding an office in a political party should withdraw from journalistic functions until the election is concluded and the management of these institutions should not to permit them to engage in such journalistic function.

The Minister said if these persons resigned from the organiser posts, then they would not be violating the Elections Commissioner’s guidelines. Among the SLFP organisers who hold various positions in state run media institutions are Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Hudson Samarasinghe, Independent Television Network’s Deputy General Manager (News and Current Affairs) A.V. Lalith de Silva and Karunaratne Paranavithana, an advisor to the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.

Mr. Abeywardane said SLBC chairman who was appointed the SLFP’s Colombo East organiser had sent in his resignation as organiser.

Sudharman Radaliyagoda who is the SLFP's Kurunegala district organiser told the Sunday Times that he would not resign from his organiser post but also would not conduct his weekly political talk-show “Thulawa” on ITN till January 27. “On the 27th I will be back conducting the programme,” he said.

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