North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 23rd August 2008 18.30 hrs – Media Communiqué No 6

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

23rd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 6

On Election Day CMEV has received 42 complaints of election related violence of which 27 have been classified as major incidents. These include seizing of polling cards, threat and intimidation of voters, shootings near polling centers, chasing away of polling agents, assault and threats to election monitors and party supporters.

Of particular concern are reports that a number of voters both in the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces were deprived of their right to vote because of the lack of appropriate identity documents. CMEV spoke to the National Organiser of the the CWC, Mr. Yogarajan who stated that out of approximate 95,000 Upcountry Tamils who are registered voters in the Sabaragamuwa Province 10% were unable to cast their vote because of this. CMEV has also received reports from its monitors and political parties of other incidents of this nature, suggesting that the overall figure in both provinces of those who were effectively disenfranchised could be high. As at the close of polls, CMEV had received reports of over 570 persons being so deprived in the areas of Dedigama, Deraniyagala, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kolonna, Mawanella, Rambukkana, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota in the Sabaragamuwa Province and Anuradhapura West, Horowapathana, Kekirawa, Medawachchiya, Polonnaruwa in the NCP.

According to a notice issued by the Election Commissioner on 16th July 2008, eight forms of identification were listed as accepted documentation for voting. A clear procedure was set out in the above notice which provides alternatives for those who lack any of the eight forms of identification.

Whilst CMEV has supported the use of national ID cards as mandatory for the purpose of voter identification, it has always maintained that this should not be implemented to the detriment of any voters. Whilst we recognize that interim measures were devised and publicized, the scale of effective disenfranchisement clearly demonstrate the need for more proactive dissemination of information amongst citizens and effective communication of these procedural requirements to the relevant government officials.

We therefore call upon the Election Commissioner to conduct an independent investigation in to what has transpired at these elections and to take all necessary steps to ensure that officials are aware of these requirements in the event that they have to be resorted to in the future. It is imperative that officials found responsible for what is clearly a violation of a fundamental right are held to account. We also strongly urge the authorities to expedite the issue of outstanding ID cards.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)