NDF campaign accused of misusing hotline | Sunday Observer

NDF campaign accused of misusing hotline

The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection has called for the hotline used by the election campaign of the New Democratic Front (NDF) Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa to be scrapped after it was revealed this week that the shortcode was assigned to a different entity and intended for a different purpose. The shortcode 1326 is being used by the Premadasa campaign to register volunteers from across the island.

However, President of the organization, Ranjith Vithanage had complained to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) this week that hotline 1326 used by the Premadasa campaign was being misused as it was a shortcode assigned to Rakwana Mineral Exploration (Pvt) Ltd. On the basis of his complaint, the TRCSL writing to the Director, Rakwana Mineral Exploration (Pvt) Ltd. noted that in the application requesting the shortcode the company has stated “we will be using this shortcode to make an automated information system (crowdsourcing) where our clients can get expected information without any human assistance”.

TRCSL in its letter observed that on investigation it was revealed that the hotline was being used for political activities other than the purpose mentioned in the application. Noting that this contravenes section 3 of the terms and conditions of the guidelines for the allocation of a shortcode in the 13xx range TRCSL had directed Rakwana Mineral Exploration (Pvt) Ltd. to stop using the shortcode for political purposes and inform them of its confirmation forthwith. It warned that failure to do so would compel TRCSL to withdraw the shortcode without further notice.

While the letter was sent by TRCSL on Thursday, the shortcode continues to be used by the Premadasa campaign, Vithanage said. He also alleged that he has received threats from NDF supporters following the complaint. Vithanage said he would take the matter to court if the NDF continues to use the hotline despite the TRC’s directions. “I will file a writ petition this week requesting a court order to suspend the hotline,” he said. Vithanage said he filed this complaint with the TRCSL to ensure a free and fair election.

UNP MP and State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne told the Sunday Observer any restrictions relating to the use of the shortcode, would have only been known by the company.

“The company could request to expand the purpose for which the shortcode is being used,” he said adding that however if it was not possible the NDF would consider obtaining a different long code to register party volunteers. “All those who have used this shortcode to register have done so voluntarily” the Minister pointed out. According to the State Minister, hundreds of thousands of people have already registered as volunteers using the 1326 hotline.