Election observers call for overarching powers to Elections Commissioner

 
sinhala– සිංහල
english

election observer     

SAARC observers who were in the country to monitor the provincial council elections, especially the Northern Provincial Council election held last Saturday, has called for overarching powers to be vested with the Elections Commissioner.

“The substantial turnout of voters in the north showed confidence in the arrangements made by the Elections Commissioner and an enthusiasm to participate in the democratic process,” former Indian Chief Commissioner of Elections N. Gopalswami told a press briefing in Colombo last afternoon.

However, Gopalswami expressed concerns about the attack on a candidate before the poll, referring to the election eve attack on TNA Member Ananthi Sasitharan’s home.

Also cited among the Mission’s negative observations was the misuse of Government staff in campaign work including trainee nurses and Samurdhi officials. “In many of our countries once elections are announced, government ministers cannot participate in the inauguration or even the announcement of new projects,” Gopalswami said. He added that the Group had recommended the enactment of laws prohibiting public servants from engaging in political activity.

“There needs to be a level playing field for all parties without leaving room for ruling party candidates to have an edge over the others,” Gopalaswami said, adding that one of the ruling party candidates had inserted a newspaper advertisement promising employment to voters. “When a ruling party candidate says so there is a tendency for people to believe him. It could influence the thinking of the voters and it is not fair,” Gopalaswami said.

The voter turnout was very commendable, he said, appreciating the fact they had the courage to go in large numbers and vote.

Head of the monitoring group, former Indian Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami has called for the greater investment of powers in the Elections Commissioner to ensure a free and fair poll at future elections in Sri Lanka.

The group has expressed dismay over the alleged role played by the army during the provincial council election in the North. The group has also raised concerns over the alleged role of the army in the attack on the house of a candidate of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) a day ahead of the polls.

The monitors said that the army was also involved in the election in other ways including by distributing handouts. Gopalaswami has said that the army was also involved in the election in other ways including by distributing handouts. “We are dismayed at the publication of a fake newspaper and the promotion of that false publication on a television station on the day of polling. The group is not aware of any action to stop the television station from broadcasting about the fake publication,” he has added.

The Mission of International Election Observers comprised 15 observers drawn from SAARC countries

Meanwhile the Commonwealth observer team led by former Vice President of Kenya Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka said the administrative arrangements for voting and counting in this election were impressive.

The observers have also commend the decision of the Commissioner of Elections to mix ballot boxes from different administrative divisions at the counting stage, to minimize the risk of tracing voting patterns at particular locations.

However, the mission has noted the heavy presence and influence of the military, including persistent reports of overt military support for particular candidates, reported cases of the military actually campaigning for selected candidates, and military involvement in the intimidation of the electorate, party supporters and candidates.

The mission has expressed concern over the numerous reports of misuse of public resources, corroborated by the Commissioner of Elections and independent domestic observers, including misuse of government personnel, vehicles and facilities for partisan political activity and also expressed concerns over “the heavy presence and influence of the military”, and the constraint of certain “fundamental freedoms”.

“We were also made aware of inducements offered to public officials and voters, including conditional job offers, conditional higher salaries and the cancellation of loans,” the team has noted.  They said  the 18th Amendment “undermined the constitutional and legal framework for a credible and competitive election”, with the negation of “the provision for an independent Electoral Commission” a particular problem.

The mission will complete their final report over the next four days and submit it to the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

මැතිවරණ කොමසාරිස්වරයාට තවදුරටත් බලතල දිය යුතු බව….

නිදහස් හා ස්වාධීන මැතිවරණ පැවැත්වීම සඳහා මැතිවරණ කොමසාරිස්වරයාට තවදුරට ත් බලතල දිය යුතු බව ඉන්දියාවේ හිටපු මැතිවරණ කොමසාරිස් එන්. ගෝපාලස්වාමී මහතා පවසයි. ඔහු මේ බව ප්‍රකාශ කළේ, අද සවස කොළඹ පැවති ප්‍රවෘත්ති සාකච්ඡාවකදී ය.පළාත් සභා මැතිවරණ නිරීක්ෂණය කිරීම සඳහා පැමිණි ජාත්‍යන්තර මැතිවරණ නිරීක්ෂකයින්ගේ කමිටුවේ ප්‍රධානියා ලෙස කටයුතු කළේ, එන්. ගෝපාලස්වාමී මහතා ය.දකුණු ආසියානු රටවල්වලින් පැමිණි නිරීක්ෂකයෝ 19 දෙනෙකු පළාත් සභා මැතිවරණය නිරීක්ෂණය කළහ.

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