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Sri Lanka president accused of illegal funding

[AFP, Friday, 1 January 2010 10:54 No Comment]

Anti-graft campaign group Transparency International accused Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday of using state property and public cash to illegally finance his re-election bid.

The Sri Lanka branch of the Berlin-based watchdog said armed forces, police and public servants were being deployed to campaign for the ruling party in the January 26 vote.

Election law prohibits the use of state property or public servants for the benefit of candidates.

"The abuse of public resources at elections seems to be a continuing activity in every election in Sri Lanka. The trend seems even more ominous at the current presidential election," TI said in a statement.

Rajapakse, who is being challenged by 21 others, including his former military chief Sarath Fonseka, called a snap poll hoping to capitalise on the end of a 37-year ethnic conflict with separatist Tamil rebels in May.

Transparency cited several incidents where a national youth movement led by the president’s eldest son had solicited state funds for a 790,000-dollar media campaign to support his father.

"Although the advertisements do not mention a name of a candidate, it is not a secret or difficult to understand for whom they stand for given the direct political affiliation of this organisation with the president and his regime and the content of the advertisements," Transparency said.

"This raises the need to have a transparent political party funding in the country in addition to preventing electioneering at public expenditure," the report said.

The 10-page report said heads of state media, armed forces and public entities were openly canvassing for the president and also releasing staff and money for Rajapakse’s campaign.

"What is of more concern is its impact on the integrity of the electoral process and the candidates who supposedly stand in election stages to safeguard the property and the rights of the people," Transparency said.

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