Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma says the Office of the Commissioner of Elections is not fully independent. Addressing the media in Colombo today, Sharma also said that the Commonwealth will monitor the next national elections in Sri Lanka.
“Commonwealth election observers in Sri Lanka have drawn attention to the fact that the Office of the Commissioner of Elections is not fully independent. The Commonwealth is preparing a compendium of practice from across the full membership concerning the appointment and independence of Electoral Commissions, and will share this with Sri Lanka.” he said.
Commenting on his visit to Sri Lanka, Sharma said that it was successful and that he had met President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as members of the opposition, civil society and Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
During his visit, Sharma went to Jaffna and he noted that there was “significant progress” to be seen in the area, although there were some concerns.
“Significant effort has been made by the Government of Sri Lanka to redevelop infrastructure and basic services. It is my sincere hope that these public goods will increasingly add economic value, advance the welfare of the citizens of Northern Province, and nurture development and prosperity. These are important developments in peace-building and, in creating the conditions for enduring harmony. Equally important are steps that empower the people of the Province and those whom they elect as their leaders. These include addressing legitimate concerns about restricted and monitored movement of both the citizens of the Province in their daily lives and those visiting them for (awful purposes, and a continued reduction in the military security role in civilian life in the Province. I encourage all political leaders to take advantage of the peace dividend that has been established, including enabling full use of the financial resources now available for further development and growth in the Province,” he said.
Asked about the UN led investigation on Sri Lanka, Sharma said that there are differences of opinion on the probe among Commonwealth members.
In the end, he noted that what is needed is to ensure the healing process takes place by finding the truth into questions asked by those affected by the conflict.
“I also encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to accelerate its efforts towards sustainable reconciliation and consolidation of its successful and hard won peace through continued implementation of the recommendations of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. There cannot be durable reconciliation without knowledge of the whereabouts of missing persons and accounting for their disappearance or loss. Healing and forgiveness are possible only with full knowledge. I wish success to the presidential commission set up for this purpose in its work. I am pleased that four out of five international experts advising the Commission are from Commonwealth countries,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)