Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00
SOME 38,000 public employees and 24,000 Police are ready to hold elections in three provinces in Sri Lanka including the former war-torn north, in what is poised to be a crucial test for the Rajapaksa regime.
The first provincial council elections, which will be held in the north for the first time in over 25 years, will show whether the Government’s development policies have been successful. It could also open the door to rolling back the 13th Amendment or conversely put paid to the Government’s intention of strengthening the centre.
With India and the international community keeping a hawk eye on proceedings, the Government will have to go the extra mile to make sure that the elections take place in a credible manner. The battle of words has already begin with Colombo expressing its dismay at the concerns expressed by the United States, Germany and Ireland at the General Debate of the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. According to reports the Government had demanded that the international community not “discredit” the polls or prejudge its outcome.
In a Right of Reply with regard to references made to Sri Lanka by Germany, the US and Ireland under the General Debate at the ongoing session, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Manisha Gunasekera noted, it is ironic that Germany chose to discredit the election process for the Northern Provincial Council and prejudge its outcome and impact when Sri Lanka is holding the first-ever election to the Council since the introduction of the Provincial Council system in 1987. Results of the northern poll will also find its way to Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay’s statement on Sri Lanka as well as the report to be presented to the body in March.
With independent reports being made by bevy of diplomats, foreign and local monitors as well as other embassy officials the Government will be under pressure to ensure that law and order is upheld.
This task is made all the more difficult by the attack on Tamil National Alliance (TNA) candidate Anandi Sasitharan, allegedly by the Army. The US Embassy promptly issued a statement demanding the incident, which also injured a monitor from the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) be transparently and independently investigated, and the perpetrators involved be brought to justice swiftly.
With over 500 complaints of election violations before the Elections Commission few will argue that the election process in Sri Lanka has improved in terms of transparency and good governance. Numerous instances of CTB buses and public vehicles being used for campaigning is just the tip of a massive iceberg that people have come to accept as part and parcel of the unique “democratic” process of the country. Whether they condone it though will be seen in what potion of 4.3 million actually turns out to use their franchise and who does not. The silence in this instance will speak as loudly as the vote.
The one thing that precedes all these concerns is the need for a peaceful election. Now that the poster wars are done, it is finally time to let the people speak.