Election fever has begun to rise.. Millions of rupees go to printers, cut-out makers, electronic and print media including an intolerable amount for newspaper supplements, TV and radio advertisements going to appear in the campaign. Actually who bare the cost?. Who fund the candidates? People have questions.
It is always a bit uneasy when we compare Sri Lanka with another country where better systems are in operation. One can say "that is them and this is us". But leave the material systems and focus on policies which are not in need of funding or effort to impose. The democratic systems and the parliament are just two of blessings introduced by the British rule. The British Parliament which was formed in 1707 continues its traditions without a written constitution and also without a single hint of a malpractice or abuse of the system. When the parliamentary elections are held it is not easy to see it different from another normal day. Except the notice outside a polling booth there is no indication whatsoever to recognise that it is the Election Day. From the day of the nominations there are no mass rallies, no cut-outs, no posters. Only the media carry out their affiliation with moderate publicity. There is no use or abuse of state property for the campaign by the ruling party. In the United Kingdom the state and the government are two different institutions.
The monitoring of party funding is also a major fact in UK politics. The Electoral Commission in the UK has set guidelines explaining the funding and loan procedure in order to monitor the donations.
Donations to political parties are regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. This means that when you receive a donation, you must check that you can accept it, record it and in certain cases, report it to the authority. All political parties must appoint someone to be registered with the Electoral Commission as their treasurer. The registered treasurer is responsible for making sure that the party follows the rules on donations and maintain suitable systems within the party to ensure donations are dealt with correctly. A donation is defined as follows. "A donation is money, goods or services given to a party without charge or on non-commercial terms, with a value of over £500. Some examples of donations include: A gift of money or other property, sponsorship of an event or publication subscription or affiliation payments, free or specially discounted use of an office".
A party in the UK can only accept donations from permissible donors. They are categorised as follows. An individual registered on a UK electoral register, UK-registered companies, a Great Britain registered political party, a UK-registered trade union, a UK-registered building society (bank), a UK-registered limited liability partnership that carries on business in the UK, a UK-registered friendly society, a UK-based unincorporated association that carries on business or other activities in the UK. Parties can also accept donations from some types of trust and from certain public funds.
It is time to curb acts which make the Sri Lankan voter a fool. Although it is important to have freedom of contesting and voting there should be guidelines and rules to punish candidates who try to back another candidate between the nomination and the day of the election. Also there should be a rule to make his or her financial situation transparent. Then the voters can see how candidates can fund their poster, cut-out and advertising campaigns. At the present climate it is said that a candidate need almost 40 million rupees to run for the election. They should publish a list of donors for people to see. Then the people can see who is fooling around.
Therefore I believe that the time has come for change. The donations to parties and independent candidates should be published for voters to know. New rules should be imposed. Offenders must be heavily punished.