Use of public vehicles in election campaigns: EC orders seizure of official vehicles

* Over 5 vehicles used in violation of laws to be seized
* Cabinet decides to allow vehicle usage for Rs. 100,000
* Official vehicle for payment not extended to state ministers

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Directives have been issued by the Election Commission (EC) to seize over five vehicles used by former state ministers in election campaigns, violating election laws.

EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya told The Morning that the vehicles were supposed to be handed over to the relevant ministries by 2 March but that those ministers had failed to do so.

In March, it was said that they need to pay Rs. 100,000 for each vehicle they keep in their custody. Then, it was later said there were no state ministers and therefore they are not entitled to keep them. Yet, some ministers are still keeping the government-owned vehicles with them, Deshapriya said.

“We have instructed to seize more than five (vehicles). If found guilty, it could lead to these MPs being unseated if elected,” he said.
When contacted, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration J.J Ratnasiri told The Morning that there was no recording of such vehicles being used by state ministers.

“It has to be checked with each ministry,” he said, adding that the cabinet paper put forward by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to make it compulsory for the ministers and state ministers to pay Rs. 100,000 per vehicle had been withdrawn and at present there was no such rule per say.

In the cabinet paper No. 20/0637/202/012 submitted by the Prime Minister on 6 March 2020 and approved by the Cabinet on 18 March 2020, which is seen by The Morning, it is stated that the Prime Minister, the Speaker, all Cabinet Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and state ministers and other similar persons who use official vehicles and official residences provided to them by the government as a privilege entitled to the post currently being held/previously held by them could use the relevant official vehicles and residencies for the promotion of their political party/candidature at the parliamentary election 2020 under several conditions.

The conditions include having to pay a monthly fee of Rs. 100,000 per vehicle, personally bear the additional fuel expenses which require in addition to the amount of fuel currently provided for the official vehicles for official duties, pay the prescribed fee for the use of official vehicles and official residence as mentioned above to the relevant authority of the Government who has issued said vehicles and official residences, and pay the fee with regard to aero planes or helicopters to the relevant authority.