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 organisations 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.

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. ​

First consultative meeting on out-of-country voting

As a part of the ’Campaign ABC’ designed by CMEV to facilitate the voting rights of  Persons with Disabilities and migrant workers, CMEV conducted its first consultation session in partnership with the AFRIEL Youth Network on 16th October 2016 in Vavuniya.

Prof. S. Rathnajeevan H. Hoole attended this event representing the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (EC)  while Mr. M.M. Mohamed, Additional Commissioner of EC and Mr. Nalaka Ratnayake, Assistant Commissioner of EC addressed the event. Additionally Manjula Gajanayake spoke on international experience and methodologies of Out-of-Country Voting (OCV).

The purpose of this program has been to call for views and suggestions in relation to the rights of the out-of-country voters and compile a set of recommendations based on those inputs and present it to the relevant authorities including the parliamentary select committee nominated to investigate matters related to OCV. Higher officials attached to government ministries and departments as well as Sri Lanka Police, representatives of migrant workers associations and disability organisations, religious leaders, university students attended in this event.

It is worth noting that the Election Commission is not advocating any specific methodologies for Sri Lankan migrant voters, because there is a PSC that has been specifically established for this purpose since April 2016.  Yet however, the officials at the Election Commission are actively participating in this discourse as observers as well as resource persons.

TALK BACK WITH JAYASIRI: LG elections delay and consequences

Mr. Manjula Gajanayake, National Co-ordinator, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence – TALK BACK WITH JAYASIRI: Centre for Monitoring Violence (CMEV) is facilitating a series of programs focusing on current political issues, giving special focus to the electoral reforms and the reconciliation processes of the country.

The National Co-ordinator of CMEV, Mr. Manjula Gajanayake attended this program and expressed his thoughts on the current situation of the delayed Local Government Elections as well as the consequences of delaying such an important election for such a long time.

He further highlighted number of weaknesses of the previous delimitation committee report on the local government elections published in gazette by the President in September last year and the unconditional importance of holding this election without any further delay. He further highlighted the importance of strengthening the newly established Election Commission with powers being vested on it to hold any election under its discretion and the importance of having a schedule of elections.

Empowering youth towards inclusion and advocacy

CMEV was able to facilitate the project ‘Assista’ (Atha Hitha), recently implemented by Enable Lanka Foundation. The main objective of this project is to facilitate resources to make youth in selected districts of the country proactive youth leaders who will work as active stakeholders to bring in solutions faced by the communities in the district pertaining to civic and political engagement, employment and inclusion. The first event took place in Galle recently and this short documentary was produced at the said event.

 

Press conference to ensure that local government elections are conducted urgently

The official term of most of the local government authorities have ended at this time. Thus, it is undoubtedly the need of the hour to ensure that local government elections are held without any further delay. However, no precise statement has so far been issued with regard to the time frame for holding elections.

CMEV held a press conference on 23rd June 2016 where relevant legal and technical aspects and other pertinent background facts with regard to the above subject was discussed.

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Additional media coverage of the event is available here: Press Coverage_CMEV.

View a video of the event here.

 

Voters’ Day – June 2016

June 01st is considered as ‘VOTERS’ DAY’ of the country. There were several awareness programs and gatherings to celebrate this special day during the first week of this month. It is for the first time that the Election Commission (EC) celebrated this day after they were established. Centre for Monitoring Election Violence also celebrated it in partnership with the Election Commission. The main event of the Election Commission was held at the auditorium of the District Secretariat of Colombo this morning. The Chairman of the EC highly appreciated the involvement of CMEV, particularly in providing awareness material in accessible formats. Here are some images of distributing leaflets, the walk and the main gathering.

IMG_1969IMG_2019IMG_2043IMG_2063IMG_2172IMG_2254Voters Day Poster (1)

Press Conference: Condemning the appointment of Anusha Palpita

A joint media conference of main Election observation groups in Sri Lanka was held yesterday at CSR Maradana, to condemn the appointment of Anusha Palpita as the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs.  As widely reported, Mr. Palpita is indicted before the High Court of Colombo in terms of offences against the Public Property act and the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (SLTRC) act. He is due to stand trial for allegedly misappropriating Rs 600 million worth funds, belonging to the SLTRC during 30th October 2014 and 5th January 2015.

Representatives of CMEV, Paffrel, TI, MFFE and CaFFE attended the media brief.

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Strengthening the partnership between CMEV and the Election Commission

CMEV has been proactively contributing towards the electoral process of Sri Lanka from the very outset. As a vital component of supporting the progressive steps taken with this regard by the newly established Elections Commission of Sri Lanka, CMEV facilitated the enrichment of knowledge and skills of the high level election staff officers through a comprehensive action plan that’s aimed at providing a series of important training sessions.

The said action plan prepared by CMEV to be mobilized in collaboration with the election commission of Sri Lanka was presented to the participants during the 2 day residential training programme on delimitation and electoral boundaries held in Diyathalawa.

The most significant item of this event is the presentation of a special gift (a collection of cartoon portrayals published by all the national newspapers in all three languages during the Presidential and the General Election time period) about Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya. It was awarded by Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, the co-convener of CMEV and the executive director of CPA, to chairman of the Election Commission Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya in appreciation of his unwavering commitment and immense service rendered on behalf of the nation.

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu was also awarded with a token of appreciation by the chairman of the Election Commission for his constant support to the betterment of the electoral process in the country.

The photos taken at the event attached below.

Championing an Inclusive Electoral Process in Sri Lanka

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In February 2016, dozens of participants representing disability rights advocates, disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and other civil society groups convened in Colombo, Sri Lanka to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities in the electoral and constitutional reform process. Led by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), the meeting launched an effort to develop and submit language to the constitutional reform committee to ensure that these rights are incorporated into Sri Lanka’s legal framework. This marked the first ever initiative of its kind.

At the request of CMEV and DPOs, inclusion experts from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems(IFES) provided technical advice on international standards and best practices for ensuring rights of people with disabilities are recognized in a country’s legal framework, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The international standards, provided in Sinhala, Tamil and braille, informed the civil society initiative by helping to translate international best practices on inclusion to Sri Lanka’s ongoing electoral and constitutional reform process. Many of the proposed standards were integrated into the final constitutional submission. These included language prohibiting the use of ‘unsound mind’ as a justification for limiting a citizens’ right to vote and run for office; establishing an independent council to advise government stakeholders on the rights of persons with disabilities; creating an Access to Elected Office Fund to provide accessible transport, sign language interpreters or other enabling conditions for candidates with disabilities; and explicitly promoting the political rights of women with disabilities.

“I consider this submission of a proposal to include the voice of the persons with disabilities in the constitutional reforms as a major leap… It would enable all of us to engage with the decision making process of the country more proactively while advocating to secure our civil and political rights.”

T.J Rukmal, Co-founder and President of the  Enable Lanka Foundation

On March 4, 2016, following an inclusive consultative process, this informal network of disability advocates representing over 30 civil society and disabled people’s organizations delivered their newly-drafted disability rights’ language to Sri Lanka’s Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms. Through this and other efforts, IFES’ Improved Election Management Program continues to support USAID’s focus on advancing disability-inclusive development as part of a strengthened democratic process.


 

View the original article here.

Enabled Election Campaign: Pamphlets and info

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CMEV as one of  the prominent Sri Lankan election monitoring organizations that realized the importance of paying special attention to equality of access in elections pertaining to the democratization process, was able to co-convene the ”Enabled Election Campaign” in partnership with several other organizations as well as voluntary activists and experts, with the view to creating a conducive environment for all persons, focusing mostly on vulnerable and marginalized groups in the community prioritizing the persons living with disabilities in relation to the electoral process.

The island-wide campaign  which was conducted last year, by the name ‘Enabled Election’ in tandem with the general Election 2015 was facilitated by CMEV whilst bringing forth an impact that involved more active participation of the persons with disabilities in voting at the election.

The purpose of the campaign was to follow up on the circular number PE 164/2015 issued by the Commissioner of Elections in May 2015 advising all the Assistant Commissioners to ensure that ‘reasonable Access’ is provided for voters living with a disability. The said campaign also became an eye-opener for the general public and the responsible state institutions regarding the rights and entitlements of the persons with disabilities and the difficulties faced by the persons with disabilities in their participation at the elections and in politics overall.

The initiative was instrumental in engaging with independent disability Rights advocates, civil society organizations, nongovernmental organizations with inclusive mandates and journalists in the process of outlining the strategy for the campaign.

The campaign focused on three (3) key areas:

  1. Invoking awareness among persons with disabilities on their rights, entitlements and responsibilities in exercising their civic duties
  2. Lobbying with mainstream political parties to recognize the concerns of the community of persons with disabilities.
  3. Lobbying with other election monitoring bodies including international observers to include disability in their election monitoring activities

Significant outcomes of the campaign were:  Drafting of a Manifesto to assert social, economic, political and cultural Rights of persons with disabilities and the task of presenting them to

  • The President of Sri Lanka and other political party leaders
  • A discussion with the Election Commissioner Mr Mahinda Deshapriya was held in order to follow up on the circular issued by the Elections Commissioner’s office in May 2015 to ensure that at Grama Niladhari level (village administrative division) persons with disabilities are informed about applying for special provisions to accessibility on elections day
  • Launching of social media campaign through Enabled Elections facebook page and twitter
  • Print media and electronic media features to communicate messages on the available provisions issued by the Elections Commissioner’s office to ensure persons with disabilities have ‘reasonable Access’ at polling stations
  • Formulating accessible information and education material (braille flyers) for persons with disabilities on their Right to vote, accessibility provisions they are entitled to at polling stations and how to lobby for same
  • Producing an informative video encouraging persons with disabilities, and their caregivers to ensure that their ‘voice is heard’ at the General Elections
  • Two awareness raising workshops (Southern Province and Eastern Province) for leaders of Disabled Peoples Organizations, persons with disabilities and caregivers on the available provisions through the Elections Commissioner’s circular, and informative session on ‘how to vote’ and extraction of recommendations/suggestions from participants to inform Enabled Elections’ follow up action after the General Elections

As a continuation of the same initiative with a brand-new and more concrete approach that opens a wider window of opportunity for many other persons living with disabilities as well as for various disability advocates in Sri Lanka, CMEV wishes to organize a series of consultative meetings in national and regional levels with the guidance and active involvement of the International foundation for Electoral Systems.

The first national consultation meeting of the series will be held at the Auditorium of International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) on the 8th of February from 9:30 P. M. till 12:00 P. M. and will be open for the interested Sri Lankans living with disabilities and for the disability advocates with substantial knowledge and field experience in the inclusive development and electoral sector.

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Download the pamphlets in English, Tamil and Sinhala.