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Please refer the lead story of today Ravaya. They have highlighted our (CMEV) latest findings on funds spent by Presidential candidates during their campaign.
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Unlimited and Unregulated nature of election campaign finances is a serious issue in Sri Lanka. Policy makers of this country should immediately act in formulating a Campaign Finance Legislation as part of the overall electoral reform process of Sri Lanka. This Article analyzes the findings of the Election Campaign Cost Monitoring Initiative of the CMEV on the Presidential Election 2019.
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The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is concerned by widespread reports of Sri Lankan voters not receiving polling cards to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, and not finding their names on the 2018 electoral register after consulting their Grama Niladharis, or on the online electoral register. CMEV has to date received over 100 individual complaints from voters in this regard.
CMEV raised this issue with the Election Commission last week, but is yet to receive a response. Voter concern about this issue is growing across social media channels. Messages providing different and contradictory instructions to voters on how to verify their voter registration, and how to approach Grama Niladharis if they find themselves not on the register, are being shared widely.
CMEV is particularly concerned of possible confusion and potential disruptive incidents at polling centres on election day if/when voters find out that they are unable to vote due to their names not being on the electoral register as they expected.
CMEV requests the Electoral Commission to clarify the situation immediately, and to provide clear instructions to voters if they have not received polling cards and/or find out they are not on the electoral register.
CMEV also requests the Election Commission provide details about what instruction has been provided to election officials to resolve electoral registration issues on election day.
CMEV advises voters in Sri Lanka to check their electoral registration details on the Election Commission’s electoral register website (at https://eservices.elections.gov.lk/myVoterRegistration.aspx), particularly if they have not received a polling card.
If, after submitting their details, voters find their names on the electoral register, CMEV advises:
- To take a screenshot with them to their polling centre on. election day, and
- To carefully confirm where their polling centre is
- A polling card is not mandatory in order to vote – a valid form of ID is all that is required, if one is registered.
If, after submitting their details, voters find out that their names are not on the electoral register, CMEV advises:
- To contact their District Election Officer or the national Election Secretariat to clarify their registration.
- A list of District Election Officer contact details can be found at: https://elections.gov.lk/web/en/contact-us/contact-information/district-offices/
The national Election Secretariat is located at Sarana Mawatha, Rajagiriya, Colombo and can be contacted at 011 2868441 or 011 2868442.
CMEV argues all voters behave in a calm and lawful manner and to not act in any way to threaten the conduct of a peaceful election. CMEV is asking the Election Commission to make a statement clarifying this issue in the hope of ensuring this outcome.
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Letter to Election Commission
ARBITRARY AND ILLEGAL TAMPERING WITH REGISTERED VOTER LISTS 2019
It has been brought to our notice, by reliable persons who have been unfairly penalized, that certain Grama Niladharis, especially in the Colombo District, have arbitrarily removed the names of long-standing residents from their respective voter lists. Since these householders have duly completed the voter registration forms for 2018 accurately and in time, and since they have been on the voter lists at the same residential address for many years and have voted in all of the elections during the past decade and more, they were shocked and dismayed to learn that their names had been deleted from the relevant registered voter list for the residence they have occupied uninterrupted for many years. On inquiry they were informed that there is nothing that can be done at this stage, even though they were not provided with any reasons for the deletion of their names. This unacceptable situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the online voter list on your official website is not currently functioning.
Individual voters have lodged complaints with the Elections Commission, and we request you to make a formal public response to the allegations that they have made. Specifically, it is incumbent on you to publicly clarify the following in order to mitigate the lack of credibility in the system that this has generated, especially among older voters who are unable to visit the Elections Secretariat to verify if their names are still on the list:
- Provide an explanation for the exclusion of these names from the relevant voter lists, and make sure that there is a redress mechanism that will permit them to vote on the 16th.
- Explain the due process by which errant Grama Niladharis are to be held accountable for these deliberate omissions.
- Ensure that the online voter registration list is operational with immediate effect
Given the urgency of the situation and the need for immediate redress to ensure that the affected persons are not deprived of their franchise, we urge you to inform the general public as well by way of extensive publicity in all the appropriate channels.
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Presidential Election 2019 Media Communiqué, 25th October 2019
Colombo, Sri Lanka
During the 36 days which have elapsed since the announcement of the presidential election of Sri Lanka, CMEV has recorded 464 verified incidents of election law violations. The highest number of incidents have been reported from Western and Southern provinces. Among those complaints 198 incidents were reported against New Democratic Front (NDF) and 186 incidents against the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). It is critical to observe that around 16 incidents of violence including assault and threats have been reported thus far.
The following are some of the trends that have been observed over the last seven days in relation to the pre-election period:
Governors of several provinces have been involved in presidential election campaigns in support of candidates while misusing state resources for campaigning
Provincial governors have been involved in campaigning promoting presidential candidates while serving as the representatives of President and chairing Provincial Public Service Commission. A.J.M Musammil, Peshala Jayarathna and Hemal Gunasekara, serving as the governors of Western, North Western and Southern Provinces respectively, are misusing resources belonging to their respective Provincial Councils to promote the SLPP candidate.
Incidents relating to threats and assaults
Particular attention should be given to the critical situation where numerous politicians have threatened and used verbal abuse against supporters of opposition parties. This has occurred especially at the regional level.
Usage of social media during the pre- election period.
It is difficult to ignore the fact that the authorities of Facebook have not been proactive in promptly responding to the measures taken by the Election Commission in curbing the spread of hate speech and disinformation. This is in spite of social media networks such as Facebook playing a critical role in disseminating information pertaining to elections. CMEV has closely observed the negative direction towards which the contributions of social media networks such as Facebook is headed. This is despite their potential to be immensely instrumental in the progress of the electoral process of Sri Lanka. CMEV believes that a broader social discourse must be created around Facebook’s reliance on the community standards set out by their own institution. Facebook’s inconsistencies in applying the standards and failure to deal with the language complexities in Sri Lanka is greatly exacerbating the spread of hate speech and misinformation during the election. This is crucial particularly in because Sri Lanka is moving towards a period where several elections are to be held within a close period.
Accordingly, CMEV is in the process of compiling a comprehensive report on the role that has been adopted by social media institutions in light of the upcoming presidential election. This report will be published by the end of the presidential election.
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Presidential Election 2019 Media Communiqué, 29th October 2019
Colombo, Sri Lanka
In the 40 days since the announcement of the 2019 Presidential Election, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has recorded 534 verified incidents of election law violations. The following trends have been particularly observable recently:
Using minors for political promotions
The election period has seen the continued use of minors in various ways to promote the presidential candidates. The National Child Protection Authority has already made it clear that it is wrong to use minors for political promotion.
In the following cases and instances, the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) and the New Democracy Front (NDF) have directly violated these legal provisions:
- Use of minors in school uniform for a propaganda advertisement of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the presidential candidate of SLPP.
- Use of a school uniformed minor for the newspaper advertisement of SLPP.
- Use of minors in the the photograph of Mangala Samaraweera, Minister and representative of the NDF election campaign, and circulating that picture on social media.
- Use of a child with body paint for political promotion at a SLPP rally in Uva Paranagama on 25th October 2019.
- Use of minors’ pictures in the website of SLPP candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
CMEV has already made a written complaint to the National Child Protection Authority regarding these matters.
Using Government School Premises for Election Campaigns
CMEV was informed that the SLPP attempted to use the Galenbindunu Wewa primary school ground for a public rally with the direct intervention of the North Central Province Governor. This is despite there being numerous available places for holding public rallies in the Anuradhapura Gallenbindunu Wewa town.
use of government school premises for campaign purposes and the intervention of
high level public officials sets entirely the wrong precedent.
Not displaying election candidate and symbol during campaigning
The SLPP reportedly did not display its candidate and its ballot symbol in the pandol (thoarana) which was built in Minuwangoda town along the road, but photographs of the party leader and other regional organisers have been displayed. According to election law, it is illegal to display the pictures of the candidate and symbol.
Engaging in election campaigns that disturbed to religious and national reconciliation
During the election period, a number of campaign activities, especially by the Podu Jana Eksath Peramuna, demonstrate extremist national and religious views in various forms. For example, a female councilor in Kandy was arrested while spreading leaflets with extremist opinions. That leaflet was a violation of section 85 of the Presidential Election Act, No. 15 of 1981 meaning that the leaflet did not display the publisher and printer.
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12 hours, 20th October 2019, Colombo, Sri Lanka – Assault on supporters of the New Democratic Front, Western Province, Kaluthara District, Panadaura Electorate.
As reported to CMEV last night, on 19th October 2019 an SLPP supporter has assaulted two supporters of New Democratic Front. It was further reported to CMEV that the aforesaid supporter has intimidated those two supporters of NDF by showing a light fire arm in his possession.
This is the first instance of intimidation in the presidential election where a light fire arm has been used, following the submission of nominations on 7th of October.
The two NDF supporters, M.S. Nihalsinghe and Nawarathna Banda, were intimidated by the show of a light fire arm while passing the Wadduwa cemetery by Sisira Mendis, a supporter of Sri Lanka Pudujana Peramuna. As reported to CMEV he has arrived at the scene by a Pajero bearing the number plate CAA 1544. As disclosed to CMEV by Nihalsinghe who had been subjected to the assault, Sisira Mendis has been under the influence of alcohol at the time in which the assault took place.
Furthermore M.S. Nihalsinghe, who was assaulted has made a complaint to Wadduwa Police station regarding this incident under CIB 2’27/153. There is a possibility of suspicions arising due to this incident not being reported as an election related complaint in spite of the conclusive evidence of its affiliation with elections.
It has been further reported to CMEV that although this incident involves an intimidation carried out using light fire arm, the suspect has been bailed out shortly without any difficulty.
While making a statement to CMEV, Nihalsinghe mentioned that Sisira Mendis who has been accused for the assault is a strong supporter of SLPP SLPP and the fact that he clearly mentioned the involvement of the light fire arm in the said incident during his statement given to the police. Upon further probing the matter further with this regard, however, CMEV learnt from the OIC of Wadduwa police station that M.S. Nihalinghe had not mentioned the involvement of the light fire arm in his statement given to the police.
It is the view of CMEV that the perpetuation of violence and assault by the supporters of different political parties in various locations should not be treated as isolated incidents in a context where a decrease can be seen with regard to the election related violence in Sri Lanka. CMEV wishes to emphasise that political leaders as well as regional politicians must extend their fullest support towards the concerted efforts of the Election Commission and Sri Lanka Police in order to ensure a free and fair election.
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Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, Chairperson, Mr. Naleen Abesekara, PC, Member, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Member,
Election Commission of Sri Lanka,
Dear Mr. Chairperson and Members of the Election Commission,
Promotion of Political Candidates and Political Parties by Staff Officers and Government Officials
We believe that the interventions of your esteemed Commission have considerably mitigated the negative trend of staff officers and other government officials engaging in promoting and demoting political parties and candidates as well as expressing their personal political views during the upcoming presidential election.
In this context, we wish to bring to your attention that the chairperson of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, attended a political promotion campaign event held by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the presidential candidate of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), at the Nelumpokuna Auditorium on 25/10/2019. The event was for the launch of Mr. Rajapaksa’s election manifesto, and Dr. Padeniya was seen attending the main plenary.
This conduct is not only in defiance of the Establishment Code of Sri Lanka which must be abided by all government officials, but is also in violation of Circular No. 01, 6 (II) dated 18/09/2019 issued by the Election Commission. We are of the view that the pre-election period leading up to the presidential election will be severely compromised if staff officers of other government services consider this as a precedent and follow the same conduct.
Accordingly, we wish to request the Commission under your direction to take the necessary measures pertaining to the aforesaid matters with immediate effect. The kind cooperation extended by your institution in this regard, to uphold democratic values and to ensure a free and fair election, is greatly appreciated.
Centre for Monitoring Election Violence.
- Mr. Dharmasena Dissanayake, Chairperson, Public Service Commission, Battaramulla
- Mrs. Vasantha Perera, Secretary, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Colombo 10
- Mr. Jagath Abeysiriwardhana, Senior Deputy Inspector General (Elections), Sri Lanka Police
- Director, National Election Complaint Management Center, Election Commission, Rajagiriya.
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A special unit established at CMEV to track election campaign cost of the presidential election 2019 launched its first interim report at HARTI Centre Colombo 07 today morning. This is the first time in election history to disclose election campaign costs and Dr. Psaravanamuttu, Co-convener of CMEV, Manjula Gajanayake of CMEV and Ransi Karunarathne , Project Coordinator attended at this event. Disclosed data and statistics which provide Estimated Election Campaign Costs of election candidates can be obtained here and next interim report will be published closer to polling day on November 16, 2019.
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A special unit established at CMEV to track election campaign cost of the presidential election 2019 and launching its first interim report at 11AM at HARTI centre Colombo 07. This is the first time in election history to disclose election campaign costs.