Manjula Gajanayake – Interview on RanOne FM’s ‘7.17’

Manjula Gajanayake, the National Co-ordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, was invited to share his views and insights on the upcoming Local Government Elections and the current situation of Provincial Councils elections, at  the radio talk-show ‘7.17’ aired on RanOne FM. 

Listen to the interview in full here.

In this programme, Manjula Gajanayake highlighted various issues pertaining to the postponement of 2 elections:  namely Local Government and Provincial Council Elections. Though the minister of local government and provincial councils Mr. Faizer Mustafa stated that the Local government elections can be duly held during the month of January 2018, the relevant ministry is yet to fulfill basic requirements  such as publishing gazette notification on the constituency of new local government authorities as LG elections to be held under new electoral system. And this time, the members will be increased in number as twice as the previous times in comparison due to the introduction of new electoral system which is a mix of FPPT and PR. Meanwhile, government has introduced a new electoral system to the provincial councils which is known as mix system that’s comprising. of 50% each of PR and FPTT.

However he also emphasized that  the hasty manner in which these changes were made is contradictory to the principle of representative democracy. One of the salient issues observed in the process of approving the relevant bill is that the government has not allowed the general public to scrutinize and to create any public debate with this regard.

Furthermore, he mentioned that the promises made by the line minister regarding the dates of local government elections were not true and hence it is difficult to have faith on the remarks he has been making in relation to the dates of elections.

Another important point he made during the interview was that the government is required to take appropriate measures to use the existing delimitation commission without setting up separate delimitation committees with the participation of political party members. One can’t deny the fact that the government has used previous delimitation committees to postpone the elections.

Requesting the Support of the National Delimitation Commission for the Provincial Councils Delimitation Process

CMEV writes to the President requesting to obtain the services of the Delimitation Commission that has already been established as a statutory institution at the National level for the delimitation process which was suggested by the recently approved Provincial Councils amendment Act in order to introduce a new electoral system to the Provincial Council elections.

Further CMEV highlights that appointing separate committees for this purpose sans obtaining the services of a Commission with the relevant expertise that has been already established for that very purpose will be to no avail. Furthermore, a suspicion has been emerging in the society owing to the fact that, appointing such committees is being used to prolong the commencement of elections as well.  Apart from that, the Delimitation Commission could serve as an instrumental mechanism in the process of electoral reforms which will be taking place in the future.

Download the letter in English and Sinhala.

Election-observing organizations express their disappointment over the continuous postponement of elections

The government must take immediate steps to rectify the situation that has arisen concerning the uncertainty of commencing the proposed provincial council and local government elections

The commencement of elections in due time in the appropriate manner, is a practice that reflects the proper establishment of democracy. Asserting the contribution of the citizenry in the said election and creating an environment that is conducive for free and fair elections, are inevitable obligations of any government. It must be emphatically stated that the true meaning of the sovereignty of the people as specified in the constitution of this country could only be realized in taking the relevant measures in the manner mentioned above.

As a matter of fact, all the election observing organizations in the country, express their profound disappointment over the prevailing uncertainty in relation to the current situation of commencing elections.

Local government elections – The general public is eagerly looking forward to see the elections being held with regard to the local government institutions under a new electoral system with greater representation for women in politics and the subsequent revitalization of their activities with a new vigor.

Yet however, both the current and previous regimes have been prolonging the commencement of these elections while attributing its infeasibility to the technical issues and irregularities. By and large, there is one critical step that is required to be taken at present in order to enable the commencement of local government elections, which is passing the draft bill of electoral reforms that has already been presented to the parliament. The responsibility of accomplishing this endeavor lies with the leaders of all political parties and the other members of the parliament.

Several years have elapsed since the discourse on the new reforms of the electoral process has been initiated. The amount of finances invested in this regard also has been enormous. The issues arisen owing to the absence of the public representatives in the local government institutions also are endless. While the situation remains thus, all the Election Observing Organizations are of the unanimous opinion that the government’s act of refraining from commencing the local government elections, is a deliberate and strategic curtailment of the expectations of general public.

It causes a direct infringement of people’s sovereignty as asserted in the constitution and it also imposes a grave risk upon the development process of the country as well.

Provincial Council Elections: Just a few weeks are remaining for the end of the terms of election in the north-central, eastern and Sabaragamuva provincial councils.  Accordingly, the Election Commission intends to announce the call for nominations in the first week of October. Meanwhile, the government has presented a cabinet paper highlighting three key points:  introducing reforms to the electoral process to commence provincial council elections in alignment with the local government elections, increasing the representation of women up to 30% in the process of nominations an holding the elections for all provincial councils on the same day, are the three points referred to above. The election observations organizations in the country have been advocating for the implementation of measures set out by these points for a long time and have been urging every government that have come to power thus far. These proposals will be much more conducive for the creation of a people-friendly provincial council. Hence on behalf of all the Election Observing Organizations, we express our appreciative gratitude to the government for proposing them sans further delay. While thus saluting the government for bringing forth such measures, there’s a very significant fact that needs to be reiterated with this regard. The measures proposed by the aforementioned points, could not be implemented in such haste with such short notice. The government needs to understand that the voters, who have been confused by the continual prolongment of the local government elections, are observing such measures with doubt and disdain. The commencement of all the provincial council elections within one day, which is one of the points presented above, seems a very progressive step at a glance. Such a measure could save a considerable amount of money for the government and it could also help prevent the abuse of state resources which can be seen in relation to the concentration of unnecessary effort on political scams to attract voters in specific provinces.  Yet however, such a decision could only be made at a series of formal discussions that could be held in the future concerning the electoral reforms that introduces a new electoral system. If such a decision is made so suddenly, the voters could expect a provincial council election to be held only on the 8th of October in the year 2019 along with the dissolution of Uva provincial council. Accordingly it is the voter to whom an injustice is caused as a result of this decision made by the government.  It so happens because the right to exercise the power of people’s sovereignty is prolonged for several more years owing to the postponement of the elections.

If the government is honestly deliberating on commencing the provincial council elections on the same day for all the provinces, what needs to be done is dissolving all the provincial councils in parallel with the dissolution of the provincial council that is due to be dissolved most recently, and commencing the election on the same day in every provincial council. Or else, the government can proceed with the existing system and commence the election on the same day in accordance with a properly scheduled timetable in all the provinces after holding a discussion on the election laws and the reforms of the electoral system.

It was not recently that all the Election Observing Organizations emphasized the need to reform the prevailing electoral system. And scheduling all the provincial council elections on the same day was not the only proposal made by the Election Observing Organizations with this regard. Therefore, it is indeed disheartening to note that certain elements of the government are making claims to indicate that the said proposal has also been presented and hence endorsed by the Election Observing Organizations. Regardless of the severity of chrysies surrounding the masses, people in this country still do have faith on elections. Ever since the general election that was held in the year 1947 to elect a diverse legislature with a wider representation, it was through democratic elections that the transfer of power took place in this country. Hence it must be insistently stated that the prolongment of elections that is being continued while alluding to the technical issues, does not fulfill the expectations of the citizens of this country although such an act could be perceived as a means of achieving the narrow political gains. Moreover, it also violates the laws, traditions and treaties by which the government is abided as signatories in both national and international levels.

It should be reminded that government is a body of trusteeship that has been appointed as per the franchise of the citizens, in order to fulfill the wishes and expectations of the general public during a tenure specified by the constitution and not an arbitrary entity that holds an authority to seize the inalienable rights to which the citizens are entitled.  And we strongly urge the government to commence the elections in due time in the proper order and thereby, take the appropriate measures with accountability to protect the rights of the citizens of this country.

 

On behalf of all the Election Observation Organizations:

Rohana Hettiarachchi             –         PEOPLE’S ACTION FOR FREE & FAIR ELECTIONS (PAFFREL)

Manjula Gajanayake               –         CENTRE FOR MONITORING ELECTION VIOLENCE (CMEV)

Keerthi Thennakoon                –         CAMPAIGN FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION (CAFFE)

Manori Kalugampitiya             –     MOVEMENT FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION (MFFE)

Asoka Obeyesekere                –          TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL SRI LANKA (TISL)

Daya Herath                            –          MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS IN LANKA (MDL)

Download the release in EnglishSinhala and Tamil.

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.

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. ​