Government Printer Gangani Liyanage stated yesterday (16) that the “main reason” for the delay in the printing of the ballot papers for the postal voting at the Local Government (LG) poll is that despite many requests made to the Police Department, including to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne by both the Election Commission (EC) and the Government Printing Department to provide security for the ballot printing process, Police personnel are yet to be deployed for the same.
EC Chairman Attorney Nimal G. Punchihewa told The Daily Morning that he had written to IGP Wickramaratne yesterday to provide security for the Government Printing Department in order to print the required ballot papers.
Speaking to The Daily Morning, Liyanage said: “Initially, the EC wrote to the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) of the Western Province (Deshabandu Tennakoon) to provide security, but it was not provided. Since there was no response, I spoke directly to the DIG – Elections, and he requested I write to the IGP directly and copy it to Tennakoon. I sent a letter and telephoned them, requesting that security be sent. By that time, we needed Police security. But, they didn’t respond. So, I then informed the EC. It is the EC that should request Police security for us. They wrote a letter today (16) as well, requesting security.
“On previous occasions, when the EC wrote to the Police to provide security, they did provide security. If one ballot paper goes missing, it would be a problem. If we are moving ballot papers from section to section, even then, we need Police security as we don’t just drag them to the other section. We don’t have Police security for that. I promised to give the ballot papers for postal voting by Tuesday (14) and to then commence printing for the Election. Since we did not have security, I put our security and printed the ballot papers for the postal voting in the confidential section. But eventually, the people who work with us were of the view that it is best to not proceed with printing the ballot papers without Police security. On previous occasions, when the papers were being brought to the Government Printing Department, Police personnel were deployed. Police security is the main reason for the delay in printing”.
She also noted that since there was no Police security provided, the ballot papers have to be rechecked. “We have to check from the beginning since we have printed half of them without Police security. However, checking is not time-consuming. We have to check and hand them over.”
Although she notified the authorities of the lack of funds to print ballot papers, she pointed out that she had managed to print 50% of the papers. However, the lack of Police security is the main reason for the delay, she noted.
Due to delays that occurred in the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting, the EC, on Tuesday, wrote to Treasury and Finance Ministry Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana to release funds to print ballot papers for the same, as Rs. 460 million is required to print ballot papers for the entire LG election.
Punchihewa said: “On Tuesday, we sent a letter to Siriwardana expecting a response very soon to commence the work. We have postponed the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting but not the voting dates. There are no changes in the postal voting dates. The Treasury had not provided funds to print the ballot papers. That is the problem.” When queried as to whether there would be any delays in the postal voting, he said: “No. There are only changes in the date of distribution of the ballot papers.”
The postal voting for the LG poll is scheduled to be held from 22-24 February.
Meanwhile, the Government Printer had informed the EC in writing that the printing of ballot papers for the upcoming LG election cannot proceed sans the funds being released. Therefore, the distribution of ballot papers for postal voting scheduled to be held on Wednesday (15) has been postponed indefinitely.
EC to summon Finance Ministry officials for discussion on funds required for LG polls
Chairman of the Election Commission Nimal G. Punchihewa says that he will summon the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and its officials for a discussion tomorrow (Feb. 16), in order to hold talks on the release of funds required for the upcoming Local Government (LG) election.
The Election Commission chief also pointed out that they are trying to hold the postal voting on previously scheduled dates.
The Government Printer had earlier informed the Election Commission on Monday (Feb. 13) in writing that printing work pertaining to the upcoming LG election cannot be carried out without due payments.
However, the relevant commission announced yesterday that the ballot papers for the postal voting of the 2023 LG election would not be distributed as scheduled due to ‘unavoidable reasons’. The distribution of postal ballots was arranged to be carried out today (Feb. 15).
Against this backdrop, the Election Commission has decided to summon the officials of the Finance Ministry to discuss the release of funds.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission Chairman states that they are making efforts to resolve this issue through negotiations, and if it doesn’t work out, legal actions will be sought.
TISL begins monitoring work on March 09 LG polls
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) yesterday (14) commenced its election monitoring programme, which will deploy election observers across the country to monitor the use of public resources for campaign purposes and campaign finance during the upcoming Local Government Election scheduled to take place on March 09.
As it has done since 2005, TISL has deployed 25 District Electoral Observers who will work with 160 additional observers working at the electorate level, for the purpose, the group said in a statement issued yesterday.
TISL announced its hotlines 076 322 344 2 and 076 322 366 2 and urged the public to report instances of the use of public resources for campaign purposes via direct calls or WhatsApp, if they see state owned buildings, vehicles, public officials, or government projects etc., being used for election campaigning purposes.
TISL’s website www.apesalli.lk is also open to public complaints in Sinhala, Tamil, or English, attaching the relevant evidence. Complaints can also be made through the Apesalli mobile application available for downloading at the Play Store and App store. When such a complaint is received, TISL compiles all evidence, verifies the information, and submits it to the Election Commission of Sri Lanka for further action.
Nadishani Perera, Executive Director of TISL stated: “The use of public resources for campaign purposes would constitute an abuse of public resources, amounting to corruption and should be dealt with seriously. We also urge all political parties, candidates, and independent groups to fulfill their legal obligations on reporting and be transparent regarding political campaign financing at the upcoming local government election.”
The purpose of a campaign financing law is to prevent undue influence on parties and candidates by wealthy donors, and to reduce excessive and illegal spending on elections, including by means such as the misuse of public funds and vote-buying. This election will be the first to be held after the enactment of the Regulation of Election Expenditure Act earlier this year. As an organisation committed to the eradication of corruption and the preservation of electoral integrity in Sri Lanka, TISL will observe the effectiveness of this new law.
TISL appeals to all citizens to actively make any credible complaints regarding the use of public resources for campaign purposes to TISL, to ensure that the integrity of the upcoming election is maintained.
EC again asks for required funds from Treasury for LG polls
Monitors perturbed by Govt. Printer’s position
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Postponing local council elections will have a devastating impact on Sri Lanka’s international reputation, Executive Director of People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Rohana Hettiarachchi says.
Hettiarachchi said that in the past government agencies involved in holding elections from the government printer to the police had received payments for the services they provided after elections.
“Now, Government Printer Gangani Liyanage claims that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned on January 31 that public officials would be personally held responsible for whatever goods and services they obtained on credit. This is ludicrous. We can’t tolerate these bureaucratic tactics to steal people’s right to vote,” he said.
United Postal Trade Unions Front (UPTUF) chairman Chinthaka Bandara said that when a government agency obtained services from another government agency, the payments were made later.
“This is the first time that the head of a government institution has asked money from another government institution to pay up front before a service is rendered,” he said.
The Election Commission has again urged the Ministry of Finance to provide it with the necessary funding for the LG polls.
Head of the Commission Nimal Punchihewa said the EC had asked money from the Finance Ministry on an earlier occasion as well.