Empowering women activists through voter education – Anuradhapura District Programme

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) initiated a voter education programme called ‘Provincial Council Elections Voter Education and Outreach Programme’ with the support of USAID-DAI (SDGAP). The main focus is to invoke awareness for women candidates who are willing to contest in the next provincial councils elections to be held island-wide. CMEV is planning to conduct a series of district-level awareness workshops inviting selected prospective candidates across the country.

The second in this series of workshops was conducted on 04th September 2018 in the Anuradhapura District. Mr. Asanka Rathnayake, Divisional Secretary, Nochchiyagama Divisional Secretariat (Former Assistant Election Commissioner of Anuradhapura District) delivered the keynote speech in this event. Over 50 women activists including women members of Local government, active supporters of political parties and women CSO leaders attended in this one day awareness training. CMEV organised this event in partnership with Anuradhapura District Citizen Committee.

Report of the Civil Society Committee to Review the Provincial Council Election System & the Provincial Council (Amendment) Election Act

A Civil Society Committee was brought together by the Centre for Motioning Election Violence (CMEV) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) to review the Provincial Council Election System and to make appropriate recommendations. The committee commenced reviewing the Provincial Council (Amendment) Election Act on the 1st of June 2018 and the released their report with recommendations within 2 months of commencing the task.

“As a civil society group committed to supporting our elected representatives to do the right thing, we respectfully submit that the Parliament should act to:

  • Immediately clear misunderstandings about the Mixed Member Proportional Representation Method,
  • Address the real issues concerning the method through suitable legislation, and
  • Conduct elections without delay for all relevant Provincial Councils whose terms have ended.”

The committee has already submitted a complete report with recommendations to the relevant parties including the Speaker of the Parliament, Minister of Provincial Councils & Local Government Faiszer Musthapha, as well as all main political party leaders. Ministry of Provincial Councils & Local Government has undertaken to submit this report for the consideration of Cabinet members on 07th August 2018.

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the Co-convener of Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Dean, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Sri Jayawardenepura, Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and Amar Gunatileke, Chief Executive Officer of Marga Institute attended the media conference on the 2nd of August 2018 at the Public Library Auditorium, Colombo 07.

Download the trilingual version of the report as well as separate versions in English, Tamil and Sinhala.

Empowering women activists through voter education

A debate has commenced regarding an appropriate system that could be adopted at the next round of provincial councils elections. There are 3 provincial councils are already dissolved (Eastern, North Central and Sabaragamuwa) and another 3 councils are yet to be dissolved since their terms have been completed before the end of December in this year.  The reason for the initiation of such a debate is that many diverse collectives, including political parties, have raised their concerns on the challenges they observed during the last Local Government Elections, which were held on the 10th February 2018.

Amidst these deliberations, as an election observation mission, CMEV initiated a voter education programme called ‘Provincial Council Elections Voter Education and Outreach Programme’ with the support of USAID-DAI (SDGAP). The main focus is to invoke awareness for women candidates who are willing to contest in the next provincial councils elections island-wide. CMEV is planning to conduct a series of district-level awareness workshops inviting selected prospective candidates.

The first in this series of workshops was conducted on 17th June in the Jaffna district. Many women activists attended this event.  Mr. Dharmasiri Nanayakkara, Former Local Government Deputy Commissioner and Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of CMEV facilitated the workshop. Mr. T. Akilan, Assistant Commissioner of Elections, (Jaffna District) delivered the key note speech in this event.

Civil Society Review Committee on Provincial Councils Election System

A critical social dialogue on the Local Government Elections system has emerged after the release of the results of the February 10th polls, held under the Mixed Member Proportional Representation. This dialogue has become more essential as the fundamental basis of the same electoral system is scheduled to be used for the forth coming Provincial Councils Election as well.

Several stakeholders have entered in to this dialogue. Certain political parties were invited by both Centre for Monitoring Election Violence and People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL) to take part in this dialogue. A far-reaching discussion on new electoral system was held on 25 April 2018 in Colombo.

One of the main conclusions reached at this meeting was to appoint a committee of academics and professionals to study and review the new electoral system. Following this decision, a Civil Society Review Committee consisting of 8 members whose names are indicated below, has been set up for the above mentioned purpose.

  • Mr. S. Medaweva, President, Election Professionals Association and a retired Civil Servant
  • Mr. P. Siriwardena, Former Additional Commissioner, Department of Elections
  • Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura
  • Dr. Sujatha Gamage, Senior Researcher
  • Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of PAFFREL
  • Mrs. Kumudini  Samuel, Social Activist
  • Mr. Luwie Ganeshathasan, Attorney At Law, Researcher
  • Mr. Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of CMEV

The main task of the above committee would be to consult relevant parties and obtain their views on the Mixed Member Proportional Representation System, through which the forthcoming Provincial Council Election is scheduled to be conducted. They will compile a comprehensive report including the recommendations of the committee. In compiling the above report, the committee expects to also review the technical issues encountered at the recently concluded local government election. The entire process is coordinated with the assistance of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, while PAFFREL and CMEV facilitate.

The committee expects to release its report with recommendations before 15 July 2018.  As part of proposed consultation series, both organisations were able to hold two consultations on the findings of the committee for provincial council ministers and members, political party officials and activists, key representatives of Civil Society Organisations including women organisations.

Key speakers at this event were Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Sri Jayawardenepura University, Dr. Sujatha Gamage, Senior Reseracher, Learn Asia, Kumuduni Samuael, Women Activist and  Luwie Ganeshathasan, Attorney At Law and a Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives. These persons represented the Civil Society committee and Mr. Medewewa, Senior Civil Servant and the Chairman of Election Professionals Association also attended in this event.

There were two consultations at Waters Edge Hotel on 18th June 2018 and Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of PAFFREL and Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of CMEV were the facilitators of these two sessions. The next consultation is scheduled to be held in the first week of July for groups from the North and Eastern provinces. In addition, individual and group consultations of political party leaders and secretaries will take place in Colombo.  The main outcome of these discussion has been the appointment of a committee to consult key stakeholders on the existing provincial council’s election system within a time frame of one and half month. USAID – DAI (SDGAP)  provided the financial support for this event.

Local Authorities Elections: Observations on the Post-Election Results Period, Lessons Learned and Ways Forward

A critical dialogue on ‘the new provincial council’s election system” organized by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in partnership with People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL) with the participation of all key stakeholders including  Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, political parties and Academia as well as Civil Society Leaders held recently in Colombo.

A brief review article was submitted under the title of “ Local Authorities Elections: Some Observations on Post Election Results   Period, Lesson Learnt and Way Forward”  by  Gayani Premathilake, Attorney – At- Law, Legal Officer, Ministry of Provincial Councils & Local Government and Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator – CMEV in this event.

Download the document in Tamil and Sinhala.

 

Stakeholder Meeting on New Provincial Council Election System

A critical dialogue on the new provincial council’s election system, organized by People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections (PAFFREL) in partnership with Centre for  Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) was held at the Water’s Edge Hotel on 25th April 2018.

Key stakeholders including the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, political parties and Academia as well as Civil Society Leaders attended at this event. Main objective of this event was to review the outcome of recently concluded Local Government Elections held under the new electoral system as well as to discuss about the newly introduced Provincial Councils Election Amendment Act.

Key speakers at this event were Mahinda Deshapriya, the Chairman, Election Commission of Sri Lanka, K. Thavalingam, the Chairman, National Delimitation Commission, Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences and Dr. Sujatha Gamage. Panelists for the discussion included Saman Sri Rathnayake, Additional Commissioner of Election Commission and the Secretary of National Delimitation Commission, Gayani Premathilaka, Attorney at law, Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government and Luwie Ganeshathasan, Attorney At Law, Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives. Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of PAFFREL was the facilitator of the panel discussion while Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of CMEV also giving his contribution to the discussion.

A large section of individuals representing various government agencies, civil society organizations and other likeminded institutions took part in this event. The main outcome of the said discussion has been the appointment of a committee to consult key stakeholders on the existing provincial council’s election system within a time frame of one and half month. USAID – DAI provided the financial support for this event.

Limitations on Campaign Finance and Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities: University Discussion Series – Second Event

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence is critically engaging with the election observation process in Sri Lanka while simultaneously contributing to the electoral reform process in the country. As part of all these functions, CMEV has initiated a series of discussions with the intention of enhancing an island wide public discourse on “Limitations on Campaign Finance and the Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities” in partnership with International Idea.
Centre for Monitoring Violence (CMEV) organized a series of discussions in national universities and few other universities which has the accreditation of University Grant Commission. This is the second event of the programme series and this was organised in partnership with the Department of Legal Studies at the Al Mustafa International University recently.
Chair of the Panel in this discussion was Mr. Ghazzali Hussain, Commissioner of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and other Panelists were Mr. Manjula Gajanayake National Coordinator of Centre for Monitoring Election Violence while the Moderator was, Mr. Rameez Basheer, Attorney At Law
 

​Limitations on Campaign Finance and Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities : University Discussion Series

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence critically engages with the election observation processes in Sri Lanka and has been simultaneously contributing to the electoral reform process in the country. As part of all these functions, CMEV has initiated a series of discussions with the intention of enhancing an island wide public discourse on “Limitations on Campaign Finance and the Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities” in partnership with International Idea.

Therefore, while contributing to the said initiative, CMEV organized a series of discussions in national universities and the initial event was successfully held in University of Peradeniya recently. The notable feature of this workshop was the participation of more than 75 women who are following a diploma course on empowering women on politics in partnership with Ministry of Women & Child affairs. Further Dr. Vijaya Jayathilake, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, Prof. Kamala Liyanage and several other lecturers and students attended this program. Deputy Commissioner of Local Government (retired) Mr. N. A. Dharmasiri and National Coordinator of CMEV  Manjula Gajanayake ​were the speakers of this discussion.

The objective of this workshop series was to encourage the involvement of university community towards introducing a campaign finance law which is still not exposed. The Delhi Declaration is also a leading source of this discussion as it is a basic document explaining principles on Political Finance Regulation. It is a followed up document with the agreement of Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) and other vigilant groups in South Asia initiated by International IDEA, who together with the Electoral Commission of India, helped to create the New Delhi Declaration; a set of political finance standards and guidelines developed for the South Asian region which was launched in December 2015.

CMEV Supports the Campaign of Youth Organizations requesting more Youth Involvement in Nomination Lists.

Though there are many positive features of the newly introduced election system for the local government election through the Local Government Election (Amendment) Act No.22 of 2012, one of the prominent concerns in the principal Act was abolishing the youth quota which was introduced in 1990 by Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act No.25 of 1990 which required representation of 40% of youth candidates in the nomination lists.

This was recommended on the report of the Presidential Commission on Youth issued in 1990 which was under the Chairmanship of Prof. Lakshman Jayathilake.

 It is a critical concern for numerous organizations especially for organizations working for and maintaining youth networks. They have come forward with campaigns seeking ways in which leaders from political parties could maintain a considerable proportion for youth candidates in their nomination lists. One of the youth networks working island wide, known as LYON Sri Lanka  visited CMEV to discuss this matter and strategically plan their campaign in order to effectively request more youth candidates into the nomination lists

Training for election officials – Anuradhapura District

As a part of the strategic plan 2017-2020 adopted by Election Commission of Sri Lanka, numerous training programmes and awareness sessions are being conducted by district level election offices to enable their EMB officials to strengthen the electoral process of the country while shaping the strategic directions identified by the strategic plan adopted for the duration of 2017-2020.
CMEV supported the one day training workshop organised by Anuradhapura Disctrict office at the Caravan Park Hotel Anuradhapura on 10th November 2017. This workshop was facilitated by Asanka Rathnayake, Assistant Commissioner, Anuradhapura District –the workshop consisted of interactive presentations and group work, promoting inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and office maintenance according to productivity concept etc. This event was supported by the Open Society Foundation.

‘Let us grant her the power, for a clean political culture’

With the introduction of the 25% quota for women in the Local Government Elections, the electoral demography of the country is set to change dramatically. This will be seen especially at local government level because of any of the local councils to be set up after the election should appoint a minimum of 4/1 elected female members.

The special feature of the Act which increased female representation in local elections is No.22 of 2012 Election (Amendment) Act, No. 01 of 2016 and No. 17 of 2016 – these give a greater chance for women who are willing to enter politics. Political parties of the country must work with women’s rights groups as well as individuals to ensure this quota in their nomination papers, an integral part of said act.

There were only 82 women Councillors in previous councils. However with this new quota, there will be more than 2,200 female members elected according to the 25% quota.

Further, the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government will promote this new quota through an event  at the open air theatre of the Viharamahadevi  Park,  Colombo on 14th,  November  2017  at 3 pm. The Ministry is organizing this event through Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance (SLILG) in partnership with other civil society organisations.  The event is under the theme of ‘Women for Change’.

CMEV and PAFFREL  are giving their fullest support as election-observing organisations which have promote women political participation consistently. Both organisations are joining hands with the ministry under their banner: ‘’Let us grant her the power, for a clean political culture’’.

Enforcement of punishments for government officials responsible for misuse of State property is a tremendous victory for Sri Lankan citizens

The most recent presidential election held on the 8th of January 2015 was regarded as controversial due to various reasons. One of the frequently discussed aspects among them was the rampant misuse of state property by the previous regime. One instance of such misuse was the distribution of “Sil Redi” (Cloths warn in order to observe Sil on poyadays), that was conducted island-wide.  Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)  along with the other election observing organizations, complained to the Department of Elections with this regard while this misuse was taking place at the time.  The revelations with that regard also were followed up consistently afterwards and it was yesterday that the verdict was given on the matter by the high court of Colombo. We believe that the said verdict will contribute to a certain extent in preventing the mal-intentioned precedent of rampant misuse of state property in order to win the elections, from taking place hereafter. The press release in relation to this matter has been published and can be downloaded in Sinhala, while the English and Tamil translations of the same, will be made available shortly.

 

A discussion on the need to systematically observe and report the political activism of women during the period of elections

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in partnership with International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organised a workshop on violence against women in elections (VAWIE) for election observer groups and women’s rights advocates on 27th of July at Global Towers Hotel, Colombo.

This discussion which was held based on the common issues arising  in relation to VAWIE and other relevant matters, was attended by representatives of all election observation groups as well as women’s rights  activists representing various women’s   organizations and groups.  Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, the chairman of the Election Commission inaugurated the program and Beverly Hagerdon (Chief of Party, Sri Lanka- IFES) ,D. M. Dissanayake (IFES), Udeni Thewarapperuma(IFES), Rohana Hettiarchchi(Executive Director-Paffrel) and Manjula Gajanayake (National Co-ordinator-CMEV) subsequently conducted the remaining sessions in this event respectively.

Chairman of the Election commission of Sri Lanka outlined the inclusive election process that has  being followed by the Election Commission, in accordance with the strategic plan that was introduced recently, which was followed by  the socio-economic and political challenges towards the promotion of women participation in elections.  Keerthi Thennakoon (Caffe), Daya Herath (MDL Lanka), Sashee De Mel (TISL) , Jayantha Dolawattha (SLAPA) also expressed their views on the subject representing election observer groups while Visaka Dharmadasa (AWAWSL), Nadesan Suresh (Uva Shakthi Foundation), U.D.M.  Sheelwathie (UWFWO), Nalini Rathnarajah (Women Activist) and several others contributed to the discussion representing women and other rights based organisations.

It was a novel experience to learn about VAWIE and specially for the Women’s Organizations the information shared with regard to election monitoring tools and mechanisms was instrumental. During the final discussion, all the participants agreed that the existing election monitoring tools used by observer groups lack questions to capture VAWIE and they came up with several questions that need to be included in all election monitoring tools. The participants also acknowledged that in order to implement VAWIE monitoring tools, there are certain prerequisites that need to be looked into- such as training programmes on VAWIE for election observers, establishing a district level focal point for observers to refer victims of VAWIE and increasing public awareness on VAWIE. Based on the discussion, IFES and CMEV agreed to draft sample questions to capture VAWIE that can be adopted by interested observer groups. IFES and CMEV will also develop a brief strategy on how to implement VAWIE monitoring during elections.