Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake stresses the importance of carrying out a census in the Northern Province, as soon as possible, to establish the exact number of voters living there.
He says a survey will reflect the actual number of eligible voters, whereas the current electoral register is outdated.
According to him, the Election Secretariat was forced to use the 1988 electoral register due to a decision taken by Parliament, though the actual number of voters living in the Northern region had sharply decreased owing to the war.
Addressing the media at the Elections Secretariat on Wednesday (Feb 3), the veteran public servant said his officers and Chief Returning officers should not be held responsible for any discrepancy in the electoral register and the actual voters living in the region.
He said many people who had fled the country had been naturalised in many foreign countries, including India. He said that India had provided the necessary data of people living there to enable him to remove people living in India from the electoral register.
He said the actual number of voters in the Jaffna peninsula was very much lower than the figures mentioned in the electoral register.
He said Parliament should take a decision on this. A sizeable section of the Tamil-speaking population also lived in the South, particularly in the Western Province.
According to final results of the Jaffna District at the recently concluded presidential polls, only 185,132 had exercised their franchise, though the registered number of voters was 721,359. The Jaffna electoral district comprises, Kayts, Vaddukkodai, Kankesanthurai, Kopay, Uddupiddy, Point Pedro, Chavakachcheri, Nallur, Jaffna and Kilinochchi electorates.
During the first post-presidential election media briefing called by the government at the BMICH, UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premjayantha, too, discussed the need to conduct a census. Rejecting claims that voting in the Jaffna peninsula had been extremely low, an irate Premjayantha said that the outdated electoral register did not reflect the actual ground situation.
Government sources told The Island that even in the Vanni electorate, which comprises Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, the electoral register did not reflect the actual situation.
Census and Statistics Director H. R. Gunasekera yesterday told The Island that they would conduct a countrywide census in mid-2011.
He said that his department had carried out the last countrywide census way back in 1981 before the outbreak of Eelam war.
Although the department had planned to conduct an islandwide census in 1991, the war had thwarted the plan, he said.
He said that they had gone ahead with a census in 2001, though it covered only 18 administrative districts, including Ampara.
`We covered only parts of remaining Northern and Eastern districts due to some areas being held by the LTTE at that time. But today, we are in a position to carry out a countrywide census thanks to the elimination of terrorism,` he said adding that they were at the initial stages of planning.