Election monitors suggest steps for free and fair elections

Election monitors suggest steps for free and fair elections

The independent Election Monitors in a joint discussion said that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections held in 2010 were significantly marred by the abuse of state resources and as such, the outcome of elections does not reflect the will of the people in a democracy.

 They pointed out that this has damaged the image of electoral integrity in Sri Lanka resulting in the erosion of public confidence in the electoral process.

Another aspect they pointed out was the lack of integrity in financing of political parties and campaign expenditure both of which are not effectively regulated in Sri Lanka.

The election monitors made several recommendations which included:

– Recovery of the cost of abuse of State resources from the errant candidates;
– An effective system under the Elections Commissioner to control the misuse of State power and resources;
– Independent reviews and reports by the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue, Customs Department, Financial Investigation Unit of the Central Bank and the Auditor General on the abuse of State resources and expenditure of campaign funds to be made mandatory.
– Systems Audit of the pre and post electoral counting and recording process must be considered to ensure integrity of theprocess.
– A clearer legal definition of political advertising must be introduced to prevent use of indirect representations during the campaign free period.
– The Fiscal Responsibilities Act to be amended to provide for a pre-election report of the Secretary to Treasury in respect of the Presidential Election.

Participating in the discussion organized by TISL were Rohana Hettiarachchi – Executive Director –PAFFREL, Keerthi Tennakoon – Executive Director CaFFE , D.M.Dissanayake – National Organizer CMEV and J.C.Weliamuna  Executive Director TISL.

 Speaking at the discussion TISL Executive Director J.C.Weliamuna said  that the cost of the last two elections including the abuse of state resources is more than the country’s education budget for 2009 which was Rs 4.6 billion.  He said that the cost of advertising carried out by the UPFA ,UNP/UNF and Tharunyata Hetak is estimated to be over R. 800 million. Further Rs 150 million was spent on  posters, hoardings, leaflets and manifestos.

 He pointed out that provisions in Chapter 32 of the Establishment Code were violated at the last two elections as hundreds of state workers participated in election meetings. Chapter 32 prohibits state workers to participate in such meetings.

Mr. Weliamuna recommended a caretaker government system similar to that of India where the government was not allowed to use its powers during an election.

People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi also confirmed excessive use of State resources. He said that an effective system should be adopted under the Elections Commissioner to control the misuse of State power and resources and that the Commissioner should have the authority to follow up even after elections.

National Organizer to the Center for Monitoring Election Monitoring D.M. Dissanayake said that due to various reasons peoples trust and confidence on the elections have been largely lost. This was evident during the last two elections.

Keerthi Tennakoon Executive Director of CaFFE also spoke.

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