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.

Consultation Workshop on the Political Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Polonnaruwa District Discussion

CMEV has been engaging in various initiatives of empowering disability organizations to achieve their political rights, with special emphasis on voting rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and to create an inclusive discourse with that regard, ensuring that the popular disability related slogan ‘’’Nothing about us without us’’ is given its true meaning. To this effect, CMEV has been conducting a series of programs aimed at the realization of political / voting rights of PwDs, in parallel with both National level Elections held in 2015 as well.

As a part of the newest chapter of the said initiatives, another  consultative discussion was held on 18th July in partnership with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka and FRIDSRO. Key representatives of DPOs in North Central  Province took part in this occasion.

The Additional Commissioner of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Mr. Saman Sri Ratnayake attended this event as the main resource person, representing the Election Commission. Assistant  Election Commissioner (Polonnaruwa district) Mr. J. Jeniton and Researcher of CMEV Hashanie Chitranganie attended as resource persons. National Coordinator of CMEV Manjula Gajanayake was the facilitator of the event and the Programme Officer Mr. R.P. Karunarathne attended representing FRIDSRO Sri Lanka.

The Regulation of Campaign Finances and the Electoral Process in Sri Lanka

There are numerous changes which must inevitably take place in the process of electoral reforms. One such significant sector that must be subject to change is the limitation of campaign finances.

A large number of programmes have been carried out by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence on this regard. The awareness programmes pertinent to this sector are still being conducted consistently.

As a part of these initiatives, an information pamphlet  has been released in all three languages. This pamphlet was published in collaboration with Transparency International Sri Lanka.

Download the pamphlet in EnglishSinhala and Tamil.

Seminar on the Regulation of Campaign Finances and the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities in Elections

Formulating laws and introducing a mechanism for regulating campaign finances is a significant sectors in the current electoral system in Sri Lanka. A series of discussions with the view to accomplishing this endeavour was held recently as an initiative of Centre for Monitoring Election Violence and International Idea in order to create awareness in the stakeholders to the electoral process. Further discussions were held in collaboration with Transparency International as well.

The distinct element of this series was that twelve districts were involved in those deliberations. Subsequently, with the involvement of selected number of participants from the said consultative discussion series along with the institutions and entities who are directly accountable for the process of regulating campaign finances – Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and Inland Revenue Department – another discussion was held in Colombo at the Janaki Hotel.

A large number of participants took part in the discussion which was held on the 27th of June. All the participants unanimously agreed on the need for taking the necessary steps to formulate a legal framework that enables the regulation of campaign finances, prior to the election that is to be held in the year 2020 or any other national level election that is to be held in the future.

Among the dignitaries who addressed the gathering were Nimal G.Punchihewa, Director (Legal), Election Commission of Sri Lanka; Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, CPA and Co- convener of CMEV; Asoka Obeysekara, Executive Director, Transparency International Sri Lanka and Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator, CMEV.

Meanwhile, chamber deliberations were also held in tandem. These were attended by Dr Wickramabahu Karunarathne, Leader , Nawa Sama Samaja party; Sirithunga Jayasuriya, Leader, New Socialist Alliance; Gamini Nawarathne, Former Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (Admin & Election); Nimal G Punchihewa, Director, (Legal) Election Commission of Sri Lanka; Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of Paffrel; Sankitha Gunarathne, Manager, (RTI) TISL; Manjula Gajanayake, National Coordinator of CMEV. The discussion was moderated by Sashee De Mel, Senior Programme Manager, Transparency International Sri Lanka.

 

Limitations on campaign finance and disclosure of assets and liabilities: A series of regional dialogues – Part 2

In addition to the contributions made by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in critical engagement with the election observation processes in Sri Lanka, it has simultaneously been contributing to the electoral reform process in the country. As part of these overall 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”.

Therefore, contributing to the said initiative, Centre for Monitoring Violence (CMEV) organized 2 regional workshops in both Ampara & Mannar district recently. This discussion series was organized by CMEV in partnership with Transparency International Sri Lanka with the assistance of local organizations as well as CMEV field and District Coordinators, Candidates willing to contest upcoming local government election – women candidates in particular, Activists and key members of civil society organizations attended in the said series of discussions.

Deputy Commissioner of Local Government (retired) Mr. N. A. Dharmasiri and National Coordinator of CMEV  Manjula Gajanayake ​were the speakers at these 2 discussions. ​

Limitations on campaign finance and disclosure of assets and liabilities: A series of regional dialogues – Part 1

In addition to the contributions made by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in critical engagement with the election observation processes in Sri Lanka, it has simultaneously been contributing to the electoral reform process in the country. As part of these overall 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”.

Imposing limitations on campaign finance and the disclosure of assets are not merely isolated elements of the overall electoral process. They are obviously factors that play a pivotal and decisive role of any election. Additionally, these factors assist safeguarding the overall integrity of the electoral process while creating an equal playing field for all election candidates. While most of the countries across the globe have been effectively working in and around identifying and adopting appropriate approaches connected to restricting campaign finance; it is a welcoming situation in Sri Lanka having initiated a public discourse on the same matter during the recent past.

Therefore, contributing to the said initiative, Centre for Monitoring Violence (CMEV) organized nine regional level public discussions on the ‘Campaign expenditure and on declarations of assets and liabilities’ at different nine locations across the country since 29th April – 01st June 2017.

This discussion series was organized by CMEV in partnership with Transparency International Sri Lanka with the assistance of local organizations as well as CMEV field and District Coordinators. Candidates willing to contest upcoming local government election – women candidates in particular, Activists and key members of civil society organizations attended in the said series of discussions.

Deputy Commissioner of Local Government (retired) Mr. N. A. Dharmasiri, National Coordinator of CMEV Manjula Gajanayake, and Researcher of CMEV Hashanie Chitranganie were the speakers at these discussions while the Senior Programme Manager of TISL Sashee de Mel attended representing TISL.

Details of discussions and key stakeholders involved

Date Location Individual/Local Partners engaged
29th April 2017 Royal Nest Hotel, Bendiwewa, Polonnaruwa Mothers & Daughters of Lanka (MDL)
13th May 2017 WODEPT Community Centre, Puttalam Child Vision Sri Lanka-Disability Rights –

Puttalam

14th May 2017 Lake Front Rest, Kanthale, Trincomalee National Collaboration Development Foundation(NCDF)
16th May 2017 Green Garden Hotel, Batticaloa CAMID – Batticaloa
20th May 2017 Ruby Hotel,  Monaragala Community Development Centre,

Monaragala

21st May 2017 Viharamahadevi Human Development Centre,  Hambantota Sri Lankan Young Voice Foundation,

Hambanthota

22nd May 2017 Divisional Secretariat Office, Ratnapura FRIDSRO, Kandy
24th May 2017 Aradhana Hotel, Galle CMEV Field Co-ordinator, Akmeemana
01st June 2017 Oak Ray Hotel, Kandy Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government

Authorities

 Current Situation and Legal Background:

The current legal background regarding the limitation of campaign finances in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges encountered in implementing the law on declaration of assets and liabilities related to elections were focused much in these discussions.  Additionally, there was a special attention to explore the possibility of ensuring accountability and transparency of political culture of the country by using the existing legal provisions on declaration of assets and liabilities in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, apart from those core topics, participants were given an opportunity to propose their suggestions on as to how to make sure of formulation and implementation of regulatory mechanism for the limitation of campaign finances. Thus, viewpoints of participants were taken with regard to the regulation of provision of funds by the political parties during the election period which so far has created an adverse effect on the integrity of the electoral process currently being practiced in Sri Lanka.