EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s new government has appointed a team of experts to probe misuse of state machinery and media by ousted president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 presidential poll campaign, a spokesman said.
The special committee to "expeditiously investigate" complaints, made up of experts with legal, administration, election, fiscal and investigation skills, are to recommend legal and disciplinary action within two months, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said.
This will be done before parliamentary elections are held, he told a news conference.
The new government has pledged to hold fresh parliamentary polls after April.
The committee will investigate into alleged misuse of state media, illegal use of public properties for election activities, use of government servants in political activities and misuse of government funds.
"The state media is owed million of rupees for advertisements by the former ruling party," Senaratne said, noting that those responsible for placing the ads will be asked to pay up.
"We will also send letters of demand to advertising firms who reserve time slots on state television," he said.
Most of the election advertising of the former regime was done by two ad agencies, one of which was owned by one of Rajapaksa’s sons, Yoshitha, Senaratne said.
The state-run bus service, Sri Lanka Transport Board, alone is owed 142 million rupees, Senaratne said.
During the election campaign Rajapaksa was accused of transporting thousands of his supporters to rallies using the state bus service.
"All told, state institutions have spent about a billion rupees for election work," Senaratne said.
The former ministry of economic development, headed by Rajapaksa’s brother Basil, had spent over 1.6 billion rupees on election propaganda, Senaratne said.
"The ministry secretary is also responsible for such spending," he said. "We intend to punish these people and recover the money.
"In future we will ensure no government will misuse state institutions for election work," Senaratne said.
"What usually happens is the ruling party spends (public money) on their election campaign and then talks with the newly elected government and do a deal to settle the matter."