TI calls for party vigilance to ensure credible elections

Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Says “computer jill-mart” not possible if monitoring done
  • Urges voters to turn out in force
  • Pledges free legal representation to any public official pressures during poll
By Uditha Jayasinghe Dispelling concerns of a possible “computer jill-mart” as alleged by some candidates, Transparency International Sri Lanka yesterday called on party monitors to keep an eagle eye on vote counting to ensure a credible outcome from the elections today. Speaking to the media ahead of crucial monitoring, TI Executive Director S. Ranugge insisted that rigging results was not as easy as intimated by some candidates and that the responsibility is with party monitors to ensure that counting takes place in a credible manner. “I have covered around six elections to date so I know the procedure well. Party monitors are allowed to watch the counting from start to finish so it is their responsibility to make sure that no oversights occur. The system in place is very sound and it is up to the political parties to ensure that they follow it,” he said. Ranugge also pointed out that if party officials are vigilant they can spot ballot stuffing and remove those votes before counting takes place. Public officials at the counting centres together with party officials also need to sign documents detailing the votes polled at each station. In such an instance they can double check official records and make credible complaints to the Elections Commissioner if any box has been miscounted. “For large scale malpractices to be done, then all these party monitors have to be removed and public officials pressured. That is very difficult to do. We take this opportunity to pledge free legal representation to any public official if he is intimidated or in any way pressured to rig the election. We appeal to their conscience to do the right thing.” Despite high levels of malpractice, counting at over 500 according to monitors, Ranugge also appealed to voters to use their franchise. He also assured voters that their anonymity would be safeguarded and urged people, especially in the north, to cast their vote without fear. Two teams of TI monitors who are currently in the north have also reported that the environment is calm despite an attack on a TNA candidate on Friday morning. TI to date has received 201 complaints on abuse of State resources and has managed to verify 122 of them, with most of them stemming from North Western and Central Provinces. According to the pre-election report handed out by TI, the largest abuse of State resources was usage of buses for transportation of people to rallies as well as use of vehicles. In addition sons of top officials were engaged in campaigning despite being public officials and even rallies held by party heads had not paid for use of public resources including grounds. Monitors hope today’s poll in the north will be largely violence free due to the presence of at least 32 foreign monitors in the region. PAFFREL Chief Rohana Hettiarachchi said addition to the foreign monitors several diplomatic teams had also sent monitoring teams to the Northern Province. Monitors briefed embassy teams from UK, Australia, Switzerland, India and Japan yesterday. Over 4 million voters will be eligible to vote in today’s elections in all three provinces.