C’wealth monitors slam military intimidation, media censorship during northern polls
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 00:03
Hail resilience of voters in compromised electoral environment
Note misuse of public resources, freedom of assembly issues
Laud diligence of election officials, Polls Chief
Echoing the sentiments of its SAARC counterparts, the Commonwealth election monitors yesterday criticised what they called the heavy presence and influence of the military during the electoral process in the Northern Province and the censorship of key news sources on polling day.
The Observer Mission from five Commonwealth Member states also hailed the determination and resilience of voters to exercise their franchise in the context of a compromised electoral environment. “It is our sincere hope that this election will mark a forward step in the post-conflict development of the Northern Province,” the election monitors said.
Issuing its preliminary report of findings following Saturday’s Northern Provincial Council elections, the Commonwealth Election Observer Mission to Sri Lanka said elections were a process and not an event and noted persistent reports of overt military support for particular candidates, reported cases of the military actually campaigning for selected candidates, and military involvement in the intimidation of the electorate, party supporters and candidates.
“The role of the military in the electoral campaign was consistently described to the mission as a significant obstacle to a credible electoral process,” the preliminary findings by the Mission claim.
While lauding the efforts of the Elections Commissioner and polls officials, the Commonwealth Mission said it had received reports that several media outlets were self-censoring sensitive reporting on the elections and noted that in the run up to elections and on election day, “important online and electronic media sources were inaccessible”.
“We particularly noted the reports of attacks on one of the few female candidates in this campaign,” the Commonwealth mission said. It said there were numerous reports of misuse of public resources, corroborated by the Commissioner of Elections and independent domestic observers.
The Commonwealth Mission said the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in 2010, had undermined the constitutional and legal framework for a credible and competitive election, particularly the provision for an independent Electoral Commission has been negated.
The Commonwealth will complete its final report to be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. He will send it to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Office of the Commissioner of Elections, political parties and relevant stakeholders, and eventually to all Commonwealth governments in the next four days.
The monitors will remain in the Northern Province during the post-poll period until Friday, 27 September. (DB)