The need for an independent and prompt investigation into allegations against Gotabaya Rajapaksa being registered to vote and allegedly voting at the 2005 Presidential Election while not a citizen of Sri Lanka

August 20th2019, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) attention has been drawn to the complaint made regarding former Defense Secretary Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa. According to the complaint made by a deputy editor of a Sinhala daily news paper to the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka, Mr. Rajapaksa’s name had been included in the annual electoral list used for the 2005 Presidential Election and he had allegedly cast his vote in the said election, at a time when he was not a Sri Lankan citizen. This allegation becomes even more problematic as he is to contest the forthcoming  Presidential election as the candidate representing the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

In terms of Article 89(a) of the Sri Lankan Constitution, a person who is not a Sri Lankan citizen is not entitled to vote at a Presidential Election, General Election or at a referendum. Voting in sucha situation is an offense and is punishable in terms of the Presidential Elections Act No. 15 of 1981.

According to media reports, Mr. Rajapaksa obtained his US citizenship in 2003. He  arrived in Sri Lanka on the 04th of September 2005 on a tourist visa and had campaigned / assisted the election campaign of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005. This, it is alleged is an offense in terms of section 45(1) (a) of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act no 20 of 1948.

These allegations if proven, would constitute a serious violation of the Constitution and the laws of Sri Lanka and are indicative of acts that compromise the very basis of the electoral process. Thus it is incumbent on Mr. Rajapaksa who aspires to be the eighth executive President of Sri Lanka, to refute these allegations and co-operate fully with all investigations. Anything less would bring into question Mr. Rajapaksa’s commitment to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, its Constitution and the rule of law. Furthermore, Mr. Rajapaksa’s silence in the face of these allegations and the allegation that he has failed to renounce his dual citizenship, is extremely problematic. As a potential candidate for the highest elected office in Sri Lanka, it is incumbent upon him to demonstrate a greater commitment to the electoral process.

The enumeration process is a constitutionally mandated responsibility for the Elections Commission. The Commission is expected to maintain accuracy in the process, at all times. Ensuring that only eligible electors and verified information is contained in the electoral list is essential to ensure free and fair elections. Allegations, such as those mentioned above, cast serious doubt on the reliability of the enumeration process and compromise the integrity of the electoral process.

Accordingly, it is incumbent upon the Election Commission to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into these allegations. CMEV is of the view that the swift and impartial interventions by the Elections Commission and other relevant authorities into allegations of malpractice in the electoral process is essential for maintaining the good faith and confidence of the voters in the electoral process.

 

Download this release in English, Tamil and  Sinhala.

 

Local Authorities Election 2018: Media Communique 1

10th January 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Elections Commission has officially declared 10th February as the date for the Local Authorities Elections that have been postponed for several years. Local Authorities Elections held prior to the forthcoming elections, were held in three stages as below.

The first stage was held on 17 / 03 / 2011.

The second stage was held on 23 / 07 / 2011.

The third stage was held on 10 / 08 / 2011.

Of the above three stages, the first stage was held under the former Commissioner of Elections Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake. Since Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake retired after the first stage, his successor Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya took charge of the other two stages. The said election was the last Local Authorities Election held under a Commissioner of Elections and in accordance with the proportional representative (PR) System.

Although the prevailing government at the time, had decided to commence the aforementioned Local Authorities Election under a mixed system comprising of Proportional Representative System (PR system) and First Pass the Post System (FPTP system), the particular decision was revoked and hence the election was held according to the Proportional Representative (PR) System. It was during this election that the official accreditation to deploy Observers in every polling station island-wide was given to the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFRAL).

The final result of the three- stage elections recorded the United People’s Freedom Alliance receiving 4,774,791 votes and taking control of in 271 out of 322 local authorities.  See grid below:

Name of the party /Independent group Urban Council Municipal Council Pradeshiya Sabha Total
  United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) 17 29 225 271
Ilankai Thamil Arusu Kachchi (ITAK) 5 25 30
United National Party (UNP) 2 5 3 10
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress 1 4 5
National Congress 1 1 2
Tamil United Liberation Front 2 2
Kandurata Janatha Peramuna (Kandurata People’s Front) 1 1
Independent Group 1 1
Total 21 39 262 322

 

Although the official term of a local authority is typically four years, the upcoming election was declared long after terms of office of local authorities expired. There were numerous reasons for the delay. The primary reason was the delimitation process that had to be undertaken as per the newly introduced mix member proportional system of elections and the political dynamics at play. CMEV has expressed its concerns over the postponement of elections to the Election Commission established as per the 19th Constitutional Amendment and to the public at large.  We are of the view that notwithstanding the powers granted to the Election Commission under the 19th Amendment, the postponement of elections was largely due to the political dynamics at play as seen by the political parties, rather than any lapse on the part of the Commission.  CMEV notes that the relevant line ministry has to issue the gazette indicating the number of members to be elected from all constituencies and that Parliament has to approve the gazette. CMEV calls for the authority to schedule elections on time to be granted to the Election Commission.

The upcoming Local Authorities Election is significant because it will be the first to be conducted under the Elections Commission as well as under new system of election.  Of considerable importance too is the quota for female representation that seeks to rectify the regionally and internationally low representation of women in legislative bodies in Sri Lanka.

The total cost incurred by the Elections Commission to conduct the elections in which over 56,000 candidates will contest in 341 local authorities consisting of more than 13,000 polling stations, amounts to 3500 million LKRS. Under the new electoral system 60% of the candidates are returned through First Past the Post (FPTP) and 40% returned through PR. The overall result though, will be proportional to the total number of votes obtained.  . Accordingly, a minimum of 8356 members are expected to be elected to 341 local authorities

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), has initiated its election observation process throughout the period of local authorities election. The observation process consists of field monitors deployed as long-term observers covering all 25 administrative districts and a large number of static observers to be stationed in the polling stations on the day of elections.  In addition, on polling day mobile monitors will be deployed around the country .

CMEV will continue to work with the Commission of Elections and civil society organizations to ensure the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process. The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence has also undertaken baseline surveys and gathered data on campaign finance and the use of polythene for campaigns. CMEV will make full use of the mainstream and social media in its contribution towards the electorate making an informed choice.

Download this communique in English, Sinhala and Tamil.

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) condemns the threatening of Kandy Deputy Elections Commissioner by a coordinating secretary of the Leader of the House

It was reported that one of the coordinating secretaries to the Minister and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella has threatened Mr. Namal Thalangama, Deputy Commissioner of Elections – Kandy. This incident has taken place at the district election office at around 10 AM. The said coordinating secretary has entered the election office premises and had made inquiries into claims and objections related to the enumeration 2017.
 
Since the country will be heading towards a Local Government election within few months, such developments are not healthy to conduct free and fair elections in the future. Party leaders must also take disciplinary action against those who were involved with the incident. 
Download the full statement in Sinhala here.

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.

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.

 

Tribute to Mr. Senarath Attanayake

The trailblazing advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka is no longer with us

At a significant juncture where an inclusive electoral process has been introduced with the interventions of the newly established Election Commission, Election Observing Organizations and various organizations and institutions advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, the demise of Uva Provincial Councilor Mr. Senarath Attanayake is indeed an incalculable loss in view of CMEV.

At the time of his sudden decease at the age of fifty-one years, he had accomplished many achievements in different aspects, among which the greatest is him being the first wheelchair user in Sri Lanka to become a qualified lawyer.

Moreover, he has represented Uva provincial council in different capacities including ministerial roles for over two decades. He was a member of the Uva provincial council till the end of his days and never abused his power for narrow political gains.   Out of the three people who are actively involved in politics while being wheelchair users in the whole world, he held the record of having the longest political career in representing the provincial council membership.

At a time and age where the political rights of the persons with disabilities was cast aside, the intervention made by Mr. Attanayake with that regard, was not only just revolutionary but it was a timely initiative as well.

Among the progressive changes made recently with regard to the facilitation of voting for the persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka, the circular issued by the Election Commissioner on the first week of May in the year 2015 leading up to the general election held in the month of August, was initiated as a result of a request forwarded by Mr. Attanayake to the election commissioner. The said circular held the assistant/deputy  election commissioners and other relevant officials accountable for facilitating the persons with disabilities in casting their votes at the election.

Subsequently, it was him who became the great shadow that stood behind the team of voluntary advocates, youth activists and all the civil society organizations who spearheaded the initiative known as Enabled Elections which was facilitated by CMEV and functioned as a coalition of various advocacy organizations like Wheels in Motion which was co-founded by Mr. Senarath himself and Enable Lanka foundation which was another youth-led organization advocating for mainstreaming disability inclusion in Sri Lanka under his mentorship.  It was Mr. Senarath Attanayake who took the lead in persuading CMEV to take up the facilitating role for this initiative.

It was not only about the political and voting rights of the persons with disabilities that Mr. Senarath worked extensively. But also he focused on various other needs of the persons with disabilities where he strived to make Wellawaya a disabled-friendly city in alignment with a global initiative of building such inclusive spaces. At present, the Wellawaya city attests to his effort and stands out as an accessible and disabled-friendly city in Sri Lanka. He invested a greater portion of his consolidated funds towards the betterment of persons with disabilities while setting an example for the other members of the provincial council and local government levels.

He maintained a consistent rapport with the CMEV as well as the Election Commission and actively intervened in highlighting the issues of the persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka at the high-level international forums such as the UN general assembly every year.

In appreciation of his tremendous service, The Viscardi Center  presented him Henry Viscardi Achievement Award in the year 2016, the statement on which is extracted below.

“Provincial Councilor of Uva Province, Mr. Senarath Attanayake (Attorney-at-Law), for receiving this year’s Henry Viscardi Achievement Award. (The Viscardi Center) These international Awards, first bestowed in 2013, recognize exemplary leaders within the disability community and their extraordinary societal contributions.” More information here.

As an organization proactively engaging in the area of advocating for the political and voting rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence observes the demise of Mr. Attanayake as an immeasurable  loss. CMEV always recalls the well-informed, courageous and exemplary service of Mr. Senarath Attanayake with great admiration. A short video documentary produced by CMEV to be aired in a recently held TV interview based on the invaluable service he has rendered to the persons with disabilities in this country, can be viewed here.