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.

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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Constitutional Reforms: March 4, 2016

The following submission is respectfully made to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms, to be brought to the attention of the Constitutional Assembly, in promulgating a new Constitution for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

This submission has been initiated by a group of civil society organizations and individuals promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, including volunteers from the 2015 ‘Enabled Elections’ campaign and facilitated by the Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), who have been advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka and in particular their civil and political rights.  It has been developed from a draft that was discussed at a meeting convened by CMEV at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) on February 8 2016, with the support of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the Northern Province Consortium of the Differently Abled, and finalized with the feedback of numerous disability and human rights advocates in Sri Lanka, and circulated for endorsement.

Download the submission in all three languages below.

Tamil Version of the Disability Constitutional Reform

Sinhala Version of the Disability Constitutional Reform

English Version of the Disability Constitutional Reform

 

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.

Experience Sharing Discussion Series on Electoral Process for Government Staff Officers

Experience Sharing Discussion Series on Electoral Process for Government  Staff Officers organised by CMEV in partnership with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka:

As a part of the annual training plan which is being implemented with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is organizing a series of provincial level awareness sessions for all Staff Officers who are engaging with Election duties during Election time. The first awareness session was held  at Solis Hotel, Matara.

Chairman of the Election Commission, Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, Director General of the Election Commission, Mr. U. Amaradasa, Chief Secretary of Southern Provincial Council and All District Secretaries/Returning Officers of Matara, Galle and Hambantota districts are participating at the event.

This is a great platform to share the lessons learnt and plan out future Election activities and it is nice to see all key administrative officers sharing their experiences with members and Chairman of Election Commission.

CMEV especially provided an insight on the importance of facilitating voting rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Including the Voice of Persons with Disabilities: Oral Submission to the PRC

Comprehensive document as a proposed submission for the Public representative committee for the constitutional reforms has been drafted following an advocacy consultation convened by Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) on Feb 8th involving disability rights advocates, human rights organizations and disabled peoples’ organizations. This initiative has been made possible with the support of the International Federation of Electoral Assistance, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, the Northern Province Consortium for Disabled Associations, Enable Lanka Foundation and volunteers of the 2015 Enabled Elections coalition, and with the facilitation of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence.  

Today at 2.pm, the translations of the said document will be submitted to the said committee in tandem with an oral submission of the proposals with the participation of numerous disability related organizations and persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka.

Handing Over

Constitutional reforms that embrace persons living with disabilities

CMEV in collaboration with International Foundation for Electoral Systems convened an advocacy meeting today from 9:30 A.M. till 12:00 P. M. at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies auditorium with the participation of the coalition involved in the Enabled Election campaign and many other disabled persons’ organizations as well as disability advocates to discuss and draft a comprehensive document that addresses the need to devise and adopt provisions concerning the persons living with disabilities to be included in the constitutional reforms.

Over 25 participants represented various organizations and institutions related to persons living with disabilities at this meeting and provided their inputs in a progressive manner to be submitted to the committee that has been appointed to collate the contributions of the general public in relation to the drafting of a new constitution.

An initial draft prepared by a disability rights expert in IFES was presented to the participants in English, Sinhala and Tamil languages along with the Braille copies of the respective document. Based on the said document, a new draft was made with the inputs of the participants with the view to adopting the proposed provisions in the local context with more focus on several priority areas which were recommended to be submitted for the consideration of the aforesaid reviewing committee appointed by the government.

However, substantial inputs from any interested organizations or individuals can still be included in the final draft if they would be e-mailed to CMEV via [email protected] before the 10th of February 2016.

The photo highlights of today’s event can be viewed below.