Major election monitoring groups in the country have shown conflicting opinions on the election process and the choosing of foreign election monitors for the upcoming Presidential election.
CAFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections) said yesterday that the country was seriously in need of foreign election monitors and that the backing out of UN and EU monitors from the election monitoring process was a loss to the country in terms of carrying out a free and fair election.
CAFFE Director, Keerthi Tennakoon said that apart from the recent impasse that has risen between the Sri Lankan Government and the EU with regard to the GSP+, the more obvious reason for not sending an elections monitoring team is because the recommendations that they propose are never implemented. When the EU sent a monitoring team to Sri Lanka at the last Presidential Election in 2005 EU officials warned that if the Government and the Elections Commissioner s Department did not implement their proposals they would not participate in any more elections in the future, Tennakoon said.
He said that as with the UN, the organization usually sends an expert team to the country, but this time had backed out of the election monitoring process altogether. Their reasons for not participating have not been made very clear to us, he said. He said that of the four multi-national organizations that were invited to participate as foreign monitors, the Commonwealth and the Asian Union are the only two that have accepted the invitation of the Elections Commissioner s Department. He said that Commonwealth Elections Monitors carry out their jobs to high standards whereas the monitoring standards of the Asian Union could be suspect.
The last elections in Sri Lanka monitored by the Asian Union were the Eastern province elections which the Union said was carried out in a free and fair manner. However, the other monitoring groups felt otherwise. That was the popular opinion over all as well. This is a clear indication that they lack the knowledge or the expertise to say the least, he said. He said that at the last Presidential Election the Commonwealth made eight recommendations of which none were implemented.
Tennakoon said that of the 14 million persons who have the right to vote some 1.5 million people have been deprived of their voting rights.
PAFFREL Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said that they were bringing down 40 officials from the foreign monitoring group ANFREL (Asian Network for Free and Fair Elections) for the upcoming presidential election. He added that some 6000 observers would also be on duty on the day of the elections of which 4000 officers will be stationery whilst another 1500 officers will be on mobile duty.
Hettiarachchi s view on the participation of foreign monitors was different. I don t think it is ideal to have foreign monitoring teams usually because they are not often aware of the ground situation and do not know the people in the election monitoring areas as well as locals do. However, in the North and East it would be more ideal to have foreign election monitors this time around since there has been talk of terrorist threats in the area, he said.
TISL to report weekly on abuse of state resources
By Sumaiya Rizvi
Transparency International of Sri Lanka (TISL) said it would launch a weekly report on the abuse of State funds and resources in the upcoming presidential elections.
This report will provide evidence into the abuse of State funds and resources belonging to the public institutions, provincial authorities and central government, Executive Director of TISL J.C. Weliamuna said yesterday.
According to him the report is the summary of 80 conclusive investigations carried out by the TISL investigation team headed by a former senior DIG Upali Seneviratne. Mr. Weliamuna said that the report would shed light on the extent of abuse giving examples and evidential proof to support their findings. Central, provincial and local government buildings, property, vehicles, man power and money used by the ruling party for its Presidential election campaign, Weliamuna said.
TISL would issue its first report-a three page summary-this week on their findings, Weliamuna said.
TISL would continue to issue its weekly report until a week after the Presidential election,
The final report would contain the final figures or the total amount of money and resources that were proven to be abused, he said.However Mr. Weliamuna said that the TISL would not press for legal action and that their intention was to mobilize public opinion, although they welcomed anyone looking to use their report to file legal action.