Fresh attempts by the Elections Commissioner to implement election regulations in the run up to next Saturday’s local polls have failed, with a circular issued by the polls chief being openly violated, opposition parties charged.
New Elections Commissioner General Mahinda Deshapriya set out guidelines in accordance with the election laws and dispatched them to all ministries, provincial council chief secretaries and Government Agents among others.
But opposition party leaders said the abuse
of state vehicles, the misuse of government officials, conducting of official functions, distributing of land, houses and equipment and granting appoints continued mostly in the Northern Province.
Commissioner Deshapriya told the Sunday Times there were no serious complaints about violations of election laws and he had instructed officials to ensure that all parties were given equal facilities to conduct the campaigns.
But, two main opposition parties, the JVP and the TNA, have lodged strong complaints about the abuse of state powers by ruling party politicians who use state vehicles, government officials and security forces personnel, for campaign purposes. They also claimed the ruling party politicians were using state funds to distribute agriculture equipment, clothing and other benefits to win votes.
“We lodged our protest at a meeting with a representative of the Elections Commissioner when we met him on Wednesday in Jaffna. We gave details about the abuse of powers, but no action has been taken to stop them,” JVP campaign leader Ramalingam Chandrasekaran said.
Jafna’s Government Agent Emelda Sukumar said the circular giving guidelines had been sent to all government offices. “I am the head of only one of the implementing agencies. It is a collective responsibility. If others are violating the circular I cannot be blamed,” she said.
Next Saturday’s elections will be held to 65 local councils including many in the northern areas where polls have not been held for more than two decades years.
Some 2.6 million people will be eligible to vote in the polls to elect members to one municipal council, nine urban councils and 55 Pradeshiya Sabhas.
Twenty political parties and 72 independent groups are fielding 5,688 candidates.