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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
Invoking awareness among persons with disabilities on their rights, entitlements and responsibilities in exercising their civic duties
Lobbying with mainstream political parties to recognize the concerns of the community of persons with disabilities.
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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