Colombo, Elections, Politics and Governance

A letter to the President on his re-election campaign spending

Dear Mr. President,

As a tax payer and citizen of Sri Lanka, I am deeply concerned by, inter alia, the wasteful nature of your campaign and the manner in which you have manipulated what should in reality be independent authorities, to broadcast propaganda.

Your SMS message on New Year’s Day is a case in point ( and your ad campaign on international media websites another (

Why is it that your official campaign website has no information on campaign financing? How can I be assured as a voter that the money being lavishly spent by you and your campaign for re-election is not public finances? Will you disclose the sum of money spent on the international ad campaign, and even only as a gesture of enlightened self-interest, allow the other presidential candidates to broadcast an SMS also free of charge?

These, amongst many others, are pertinent questions that require urgent answers. I trust that part of the subha anagathayak you promise is also anchored to democratic governance, accountability and transparency.

With my best regards,

Sanjana Hattotuwa


This online submission was entered into the incumbent Executive campaign website. Confirmation of the submission was displayed on screen. There is however no indication or guarantee that online submissions are actually forwarded to someone with the authority to answer them, or to forward them to someone who can. Curiously too, these online submissions are only possible on the Tamil and Sinhala versions of the site (Correction – we learn from a reader that a ‘Tell Mahinda’ link does appear on the English version of the site, which was missed because the site does not render accurately on Macs).

The first article on the pernicious nature of the President’s New Year SMS appeared on GroundviewsUnsolicited SMS messages are spam. Please desist Mr. President.

Paying global media for local elections has generated over 60 comments to date. The article and subsequent comments by Groundviews flag a number of pressing concerns over the opaque nature of the incumbent Executive’s re-election campaign financing. As we noted,

“Amongst a number of other questions, we wonder why the incumbent feels the need to secure prime banner ad spots on these international websites? Does the incumbent believe that the handful of Sri Lankan voters who visit these sites from Sri Lanka are worth the significant amount spent to secure these banner ad placements? How and why were these news media sites based in the UK, USA, India and Australia chosen? Will the incumbent disclose the sum of money spent on these ads if demanded by a voter? Where did this money come from?”

Read the article in full here. It is also an issue flagged on Page 2 of The Sunday Times on 10 January 2010.