Prime Minister and the leader of the United National Party (UNP) Ranil Wickremesinghe has openly flouted elections laws by engaging in a hand-out programme that is set to cover the entire island in the month of December.
He launched an initiative at Temple Trees yesterday (December 5) to ‘prepare for cultivation 12000 plots of “pin bim” or “sacred lands” across the country under the ‘National Sasunodaya Programme’ (Programme to Uplift the Buddhist Order) under which 1000 temples will be reconstructed and protected before the end of December, according to Wickremesinghe. The programme will be implemented using state funds.
While there’s nothing illegal about such programmes, during an election politicians are required not to take part in them. The implementation can be done by the relevant officials who are required to inform the Elections Commission of such activities where politicians could be involved.
This initiative and the involvement of a leader of a recognized political party amounts to abuse of state resources for purposes of promoting a political party, an infringement of the kind that led to the conviction of former Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga in the infamous ‘Sil Redi Case’.
The ‘Divineguma’ programme also implemented during the same period is another instance where election laws were violated.
While stating that the progamme is part of the government’s plan to safeguard the unitary character of the state and preserve the special status of Buddhism in the country, Wickremesinghe said the government is committed to the development and protection of all religious places of worship. He said that Rs 21 million has been allocated for Hindu, Islamic and Christian places of worship, accordingly.
Meanwhile Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam of the UNP is scheduled to reveal the names of books worth Rs 700 million that are to be distributed among 3312 schools ‘in order to cultivate the reading habit among school children,’ another initiative that contravenes the Elections Act. This ceremony is to be held at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister.
President Maithripala Sirisena who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for his part laid a foundation stone in Polonnaruwa today for what is said to be the largest hospital in South Asia devoted to kidney diseases.
Such initiatives of national importance previously scheduled are not disallowed, Colombo Telegraph learns, as long as politics is left out of it. However, President Sirisena expressly referred to the ‘efforts of the government’ in his speech. He also participated in a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of a ‘Stroke Treatment Complex’ at the Polonnaruwa Hospital today.