Campaign finances to be regulated

  • Cabinet approves plans for level playing field 

BY Pamodi Waravita

Provisions will be introduced to regulate and control election expenses, following the Cabinet’s approval being granted on Monday (29 November) for a proposal by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the effect, as part of efforts to create a more just playing field for the conduct of free and fair elections, the Government said yesterday (30 November).

“Prior to 1977, there were regulations about election-related spending. Unfortunately, however, with the introduction of the proportional representation electoral system, these regulations did not make their way to the new legislation. In 2017, the Cabinet gave approval to amend existing ordinances and as the final step, President Rajapaksa gave this cabinet paper this week. We hope that with these provisions, a background and a playing field to conduct freer and fairer elections will be created,” Cabinet Spokesman Dullas Alahapperuma said at the post-cabinet meeting press briefing held yesterday.

He raised concerns about the unlimited spending during election times, which he claimed, has become a practice.

“Regulating the spending capacity during elections is one big aspect of ensuring fair elections. We must also look for an election mechanism that represents the people better. However, we hope that regulating election expenses will create new hope for a country that is exhausted with the current election mechanisms and politicians. We hope that there will be bipartisan support in Parliament for this,” said Alahapperuma.

In September this year, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Monaragala Pradeshiya Sabha Member Harshaka Priya Dissanayake, who was accused of bribing voters to garner votes, was disqualified in a landmark High Court judgement. The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) initially filed the case against Dissanayake. Following the ruling, PAFFREL noted the necessity of laws to limit election expenses by candidates.

The Parliamentary Select Committee to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments has reached an agreement in consultation with the relevant parties to introduce these provisions.

The Morning’s attempts to contact Election Commission Information Officer M.K. Saman Sri Ratnayake for more information on the matter proved futile.