Sri Lankan leaders’ assets kept secret in run up to poll

78295_Untitled-1-RecoveredEconomyNext – Sri Lankans are being denied access to asset declarations by candidates in next month’s presidential election in which allegations of corruption and abuse of power against the government are a key plank of the opposition’s campaign.

All 19 candidates in the January 8, 2015 poll, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his main challenger Maithripala Sirisena, have filed their declarations of assets and liabilities with the Elections Department, newspapers reported Sunday.

But Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has blocked public access to the asset declarations of all presidential candidates till after the election, the Sunday Times reported in a story headlined ‘Candidates bare assets, but polls chief covers them’.

“The public can request for them after the elections,” the Sunday Times quoted the Elections Commissioner as telling the paper. “We are not letting anyone see them till then.”

The newspaper quoted legal experts as saying Deshapriya’s decision was an “administrative” move that did not have any basis in law.

The paper said it was the first time that every contender for the presidency has complied with the legal requirement to declare their assets, noting that the law has only been “loosely enforced” in the past.

It said the main opposition candidate, Sirisena, allowed the Sunday Times to see his asset declaration but did not release a copy, and that he asked the newspaper not to publish its contents.

Sirisena, who defected from the ruling party, represents are coalition of opposition parties who have closed ranks to try defeat Rajapaksa’s unprecedented bid for a third term.

The opposition has made allegations of corruption and abuse of power a key plank in its campaign against Rajapaksa.

The Sunday Island newspaper quoted the Elections Commissioner as saying he cannot make asset declarations public until after the election as the information can be “used against the candidate”.

Asked whether Rajapaksa planned to make his asset declarations public, the Sunday Island quoted Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minister of Petroleum Industries, as saying: “There is no need to go that far. The requirement is to declare the candidate’s assets. However, if there is a request the declaration will be made available.”

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