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TISL requests Election Commission to urgently amend circular to reflect COVID-19 pandemic

ECONOMYNEXT – Writing to the Election Commission (EC) today, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) highlighted the urgent need to amend circular 2020/03 to reflect the changed circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeysekere writing to EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said the misuse of public property is among key factors the commission should take into consideration ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for June 20.

This is particularly in light of essential relief work which must be carried out during this period, he said.

“In light of the relief work having to take place during the campaign period, we believe the current circular (2020/03) issued on March 3, 2020, is inadequate for these exceptional times. The circular itself recognises the election date as April 25, which was fixed prior to the full understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact,” wrote Obeysekere.

“The commission should therefore consider updating the circular on state resource abuse, which would incorporate specific provisions around the current context surrounding relief efforts. This would aid public servants and observers in distinguishing between relief work and state resource abuse,” he added.

Obeysekere explained that this distinction is essential given that relief work will need to inevitably continue in an efficient and effective manner during the campaign period. Given the restrictions on movement, he said, there will be an unavoidable impact on the mobility of observers at the upcoming election and the deterrent effect on potential violators by the presence of observers will also be significantly reduced.

This further reinforces the need to update the circular to ensure public officials and the general public are equipped to be ever more vigilant, he added.

“Beyond our mandate on state resource abuse, we also have a concern that the announced election date (June 20, 2020) could be found to be inconsistent with the constitution (Article 70(50)) in terms of convening the new parliament. This could in turn call to question the legitimacy of both the election and its ensuing result.” (Colombo/Apr24/2020)

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