The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said that according to their estimation the total spending by all candidates for the presidential campaign could reach Rs 10 billion by election day.
This was revealed today at a press conference held in Colombo today Nov 5, where for the first time in Sri Lanka estimates of campaign finance were by a polls watchdog.
In the interim report released today, CMEV said they have been monitoring advertising spending by the main candidates between October 14 and 31st which came to a total of Rs. 962 billion with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna leading the way with Rs 574 million, the New Democratic Front with Rs 372 million and the JVP-led NPP Rs 16 million.
Addressing reporters the Executive Director of the Center Policy Analysis Dr P Saravanamuttu, said campaign financing is a major issue in Sri Lanka, but there are no laws to monitor or regulate the practice. “We do not know how much is being spent on these politicians and whether they are being bought and by whom,” he said.
The aim of monitoring these numbers and informing the public is to build pressure on Parliament to enact laws that will regulate campaign spending.
He revealed that a draft campaign finance regulatory regime is with the Attorney General where it has been stuck for many years.
He said that the CMEV with the current data can “only provide a snapshot” of what is going on. This exercise is to inform the public “so that the voter can decide as to whether this campaign is being bought by certain people, whether the money that has been spent is reasonable or whether it is far in excess of the required amount,” he added.
Saravanamuttu also said that the amounts in the report are not the actuals but estimates because certain parties get discounts for TV and newspaper advertisements from the amount mentioned in the general quotations.
The National Coordinator of CMEV Manjula Gajanayake said his organisation hopes to release a comprehensive report at the end of the election where the costs of transport, organising meetings and radio advertising will also be added.
He pointed out that although these huge sums were being spent although the parties had declared assets that were very small. The declarations were that their assets were around Rs 10 million, while they had spent nearly a billion in two weeks.
Questioning the whereabouts the source of such huge amount of money he said that those funds could have connections with money laundering, the underworld and even drugs.
“To stop them we need to have some kind of election monitoring law,” he added.