Japan wants free and fair poll in the north

Saturday, 20 July 2013 00:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Japan says it will support the conduct of free and fair elections in the Northern, North Western and Central Provincial Councils. The Japanese government appreciates the initiative taken by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in directing the Elections Commissioner to conduct elections in the north, in pursuit of realising the recommendation of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, the Japanese Embassy in Colombo said. The Japanese Embassy said the election would be a milestone for the Government of Sri Lanka in the process of national reconciliation. The Embassy yesterday announced that Japan has decided to provide US$ 88,667 (approximately Rs. 11.4 million) in grant aid for ‘The Project for Mobilisation of the Citizenry to Participate in the Electoral Process to Strengthen Democracy’, with a view to conducting voter education in the Northern Province and election monitoring in the three upcoming provincial council elections under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). “Supporting the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen democracy, this project is aimed at encouraging local people in the North to exercise their first-ever franchise at provincial level since 1988 and to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections for Northern, North Western and Central Provincial Councils.” Under this project, the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), an election monitoring organisation will organise election-related activities in a neutral manner. Backed by its vast expertise since 1987, PAFFREL will conduct programs to educate voters in the Northern Province on voting and the system of provincial council and deploy election observers in each polling station in the three provinces. Furthermore, it will also engage with the training of these observers working as immediate guardian of people’s political rights. Collaborating with Japan for the seventh time, PAFFREL also conveys to people Japan’s determination to support the consolidation of peace in Sri Lanka. The Japanese Embassy noted that under the leadership of Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan on Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Sri Lanka, Japan has been encouraging the national reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. In March, 2013, President Rajapaksa visited Japan and during his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he expressed his strong commitment to hold an election for the Northern Provincial Council. Recognising these elections entirely as domestic processes, Japan hopes that its electoral assistance would reach people at grass-roots level without any prejudice through PAFFREL and ensure inclusive participation of local people. Japan also expects that this project would further enhance the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner, devoid of election violence, thereby building people’s confidence in freedom of expression and their participation in the democratic political process in the country. The Grant Contract between Nobuhito Hobo, Ambassador of Japan and Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director, PAFFREL, was signed today at the Ambassador’s residence in Colombo in the presence of Jezima Ismail, Chairperson of PAFFREL. (Colombo Gazette)