The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has written to Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya urging him to probe alleged misuse of State vehicles for election campaigning by candidates during the recent General Election, and to take action against offenders.
Speaking on the issue, PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Nation that while misuse of State resources during this year’s General Election campaign had been lower compared to previous elections, they had still received a significant number of complaints related to the usage of state vehicles by candidates for illegal campaigning.
In particular, PAFFREL has requested the Elections Commissioner to investigate whether candidates had only used vehicles allocated to them during their campaigns and whether they had all paid the Rs.100,000 monthly levies charged by the state if they had used such vehicles for campaign purposes. The election monitoring organization has further asked the Elections Commissioner to investigate if MPs, Provincial Councilors and Heads of Local Government who were not officially authorized to use state vehicles, but were using them anyway, had all returned the vehicles as per the commissioner’s instructions.
Hettiarachchi said for example, all Provincial Councilors in the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council had been allocated state vehicles by the province’s Chief Minister. “Some of these Provincial Councilors contested the election. We wrote to the Secretary of the Provincial Council regarding this and the Secretary took action to reclaim these vehicles. Even legal action was filed against some PC members who did not return their vehicles,” he revealed.
Hettiarachchi said Government Ministers were allocated three vehicles, while vehicles were also allocated to Opposition MPs. “We do not know how many paid the entire amount for all vehicles allocated to them. However, there are allegations that some did not pay for all their vehicles, that some used more than the number allocated, while there were others who did not return their vehicles despite requests to do so”.
The PAFFREL Executive Director added their request was not against people’s representatives, but pointed out such actions were necessary in order to create a better political culture.