In order to address several public concerns over the conduct of free and fair elections at the forthcoming municipal and local government elections, a delegation of the Friday Forum met with the new Commissioner of Elections, Mahinda Deshapriya, to review measures taken by him to ensure clean Polls. The Friday Forum raised several issues of importance in the context of democratic governance in the post 18th constitutional amendment political setting. They also discussed the appointment of the new Commissioner in the context of civil society expectations of free and fair elections and the setting of new benchmarks of democratic governance, transparency and credibility of his public office by acting strictly in terms of the law.
A key area of concern highlighted by Friday Forum was the facilities for IDP’s to vote as they have been denied their franchise for many years on account of the war. The Commissioner assured the Friday Forum that special polling facilities for IDP’S will be provided island wide to address this serious lapse in ensuring the fundamental rights of war affected citizens. He confirmed that IDP’s who have not been able to get back to their original places of residence have the right to vote from their temporary places of residence in view of this convenience. He appeals to the public to inform, encourage and assist the IDP’s in their area including through social service and religious networks which IDP’s are comfortable with to seek support.
The Friday Forum warns that persons living in remote and sparsely populated areas, who have not been previously registered on account of the war, and who continue to neglect being registered, stand the risk of losing their rights and share of resource allocations in the future.
In the above connection, the Commissioner also stressed that the-reduction in parliamentary representation of the Jaffna district can be corrected to its original levels if its population is accurately represented through enhanced voter registration and the updating of election registers supported by all political parties.
Additionally, all persons who are temporarily residing overseas whose names have been, erroneously or otherwise, removed from election registers in the past can now request inclusion in the revised lists being compiled currently. All political parties and civil society organizations should ensure revisions on behalf such persons before the current window closes in November 2011 Appeals can be made in November 2011 against any deletion, non-inclusion etc found to be objectionable by the relevant stakeholders. These persons will however be entitled to vote provided they a in Sri Lanka at the time of elections.
The Friday Forum emphasized that ensuring accurate demographic representation of the population via electoral registration and census participation is an effective means of addressing the democratic rights and socio-economic participation of citizens in the equitable allocation of national resources by the State.
The Commissioner informed the Friday Forum that in order to encourage voter registration, registration forms can be easily obtained from local EC offices throughout the island or down loaded from the EC-official website (http://www.selections.gov.lk)