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Caffe Interim Report on Abuse of Power During the Northern, Northwestern and Central Provincial Elections

Caffe Interim Report on Abuse of Power During the Northern, Northwestern and Central Provincial Elections

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Published by: Thavam on Sep 15, 2013
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2013-09-15IntroductionSri Lankan election laws forbid the use of public property during periods whenelections are held. Numerous circulars and establishment codes attempt to preventsuch abuses during election periods. It is also prohibited for state employees to engagein party politics. However, interest groups and local and international electionobservers continuously point at instances of misuse of public properties like public buildings, manipulation of state media and vehicles and the misuse of state employees’time including military and police personnel to support election campaigns as well asparty campaigns in election-free periods. Apart from damaging electoralcompetitiveness, misuse of public property by the incumbent Government politicalparty has a negative impact on the quality of governance as funds and resourcesearmarked for necessary projects are diverted for electioneering.
 An analysis of the past elections indicates that misuse of public property is a decisivefactor in the pre-election period and has a significant impact on the outcome of anelection. State property, including promises of future employment and welfare benefitsare, in a way, direct strategies employed by the Government to influence the voter. Although there was a significant improvement in the situation during the period whenindependent commissions established by the virtue of the powers contained in the 17thamendment to the Constitution was operational, the situation rapidly deterioratedafter the independent commissions were made dysfunctional due to the lack of political commitment. Misuse of public property is also a violation of the most basicfundamentals of a free and fair election.For an election to be really free and fair all parties and candidates should have a levelplaying field – one person, one vote, one value principal.
INGO Projects Used for Political Mileages”
However when one party or a candidate has access to state property, that party orcandidate has a significant and often insurmountable advantage over those who do nothave such access. This tilting-process, resulting in advantages accrued to the Party inpower in an electoral contest, has an adverse effect on people’s faith in politicalrepresentation as many feel that politics is manipulated by the ruling Governmentrather than it being based on a fair contest. In addition, when politicians misuse publicproperty it is the taxpayer that ultimately foots the bill as these properties are oftenprocured and maintained through revenues made by taxes. Furthermore, when stateresources and employees are used for electioneering, there is an opportunity cost asthe public receives less service than they are entitled to. This in turn leads to poorgovernance, an ineffective public sector and further delegitimizes the state as an agent working for the betterment of the public.Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has been monitoring instances of misuse of public property since the 2008 Eastern Provincial Council election.However, this is the first effort of a systematic compiling and analysis of misuse of public property, breach of legislation, and its impact on competitiveness duringelectioneering, rule of law and democracy. The report uses a combination of direct andindirect monitoring methodologies. CaFFE uses instances observed by its island widenetwork of election monitors and civil society partners as well as media monitoringand complaints lodged at the Department of Elections and Police Elections Secretariat.CaFFE believes that those who are interested in free and fair elections and arepassionate about representative democracy must campaign and take action to preventthe misuse of state property to enable and ensure free and fair elections.
36% Complaints are abuse of public property”
This report is an effort to raise public awareness of the issue and to enhance therespect for and highlight existing legislation that prohibits the misuse of resources.
Summery CaFFE has received 455 complaints by September 11, 2013 and 165 of complaints which is 36% in total are abuse of state property. CaFFE considers abuse of stateproperty is the most influential mechanism of manipulating the elections during thepre election times.CaFFE utilized all its existing resources to monitor the abuse of state property with animpact and our exercise has tremendously reduced such behavior by not only theruling party but also the main opposition party in Northern Province.
Background of the NP, NWP and CP Provincial Election
President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a proclamation ordering the ElectionCommissioner to conduct elections for the Northern Provincial Council on July 5,2013. On the same day Central and Northwestern Provincial Councils were alsodissolved by their governors.This is the first time a provincial council election is held in a de-merged NorthernProvince, although elections were held in the area as a part of the merged NorthEastern Province on November 19, 1988. The two provinces were de-merged onJanuary 1, 2007 after the Supreme Court, ruled on October 16, 2006 that theproclamations issued by President Jayewardene were null and void and had no legaleffect.One of the striking aspects between the day of nominations and August 21 is thatcomplaints of misuse of public property received by CaFFE, other election monitorsand the Department of Elections were higher than other election related offences.Several factors have contributed to this development, among which the climate of impunity and the high number of candidates from political families playing a key role. With the dissolution, the Provincial Councils of Central and Northwestern Provincesare no longer functioning and the administration of the province is under the purview of the Governor and the Chief Secretary of the province. According to election laws, after a Provincial Council is dissolved the Ministers andmembers of the provincial councils are to hand over mobile and immobile assetsprovided by the council to facilitate their activities to serve the people. These include vehicles, official residences, equipment, stationary, furniture, electricity,communications and other amenities. However, in elections CaFFE had monitored, ithas not observed any action by the Governor and the Chief Secretary of the provincestaking any meaningful and systematic action to re-acquire these assets. UnfortunatelCaFFE witnessed a similar course of action by Governors and Chief Secretaries of Central and Northwestern Provinces in the run up to September’s Provincial CouncilElections. This climate of impunity has encouraged and enhanced the misuse of publicproperty.
Relatives Business Partners: Causing Abuse”
 Another factor contributing to the misuse of public property is that a large number orelatives of government ministers, MPs, provincial councilors, former councilors andPradesheeya Sabha members are contesting in the Central and Northwestern

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