CMEV warns of electoral violence

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 January 2004, 12:26 GMT]
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), in a press released issued in Colombo today said that the CMEV "noted with serious concern a number of factors that threaten the integrity of electoral process," pointing out that the "transfers of police officers in recent months" is an ominous sign and added that "reports of violence in the last two days against supporters of the SLFP-JVP alliance indicates that electoral violence will once again mar the exercise of the franchise, unless political parties take effective action against members who foster and perpetrate violence."

Full text of the press release follows:

CMEV WARNS OF EARLY SIGNS OF PROBABLE ELECTORAL VIOLENCE AND MALPRACTICE

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) notes with serious concern a number of factors that threaten the integrity of the electoral process. CMEV’s concern is heightened by the onset of provincial council elections and the possibility that they could be preceded or followed by a general election soon thereafter.

The failure to establish an Election Commission as provided for by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution is a clear rebuff to the voters of this country. Successive elections, marred by malpractice and violence, served as the catalyst for the popular clamour for independent commissions. It is indeed ironic, therefore, that the commission dealing with the basic mechanism of choice and change in a functioning democracy has yet to be established. The Constitutional Council has long fulfilled its role in nominating the members of the commission and we call upon the president to proceed with the appointment of the Election Commission without further delay. The establishment of the Election Commission is central to the restoration of the fullest public confidence in the electoral process – a basic requirement in a functioning democracy. The key importance of this is underscored by impending electoral contests at a crucial time in Sri Lanka’s history. It is a critical benchmark of governance, as well as of the commitment to better governance in Sri Lanka.

The reports of transfers of police officers in recent months is an ominous sign. The experience of past elections shows that this practice is invariably a precursor to electoral violence and malpractice. The persistence of this bad practice is another rebuff to public expectations following the 17th Amendment and the establishment of an independent commission for police. We call upon the president in particular, in her capacity as chief executive and as the Minister of Interior, the Prime Minister, the IGP and the Police Commission to ensure that the police are in no way impeded in the fulfilment of their responsibility in ensuring free and fair elections.

The reports of violence in the last two days against supporters of the SLFP-JVP alliance indicates that electoral violence will once again mar the exercise of the franchise, unless political parties take effective action against members who foster and perpetrate violence. Rhetorical commitment against electoral violence has to be backed up by swift and decisive action by political leaders. The failure to do this, could, in light of the prevailing political polarization in the country, turn forthcoming elections into battles for survival, literally and metaphorically speaking and in turn deepen divisions. CMEV calls upon the leadership of all political parties – the Prime Minister in particular, given the allegations against the UNF in the most recent incidents - to call a halt to political thuggery which threatens the integrity of the electoral process. Political parties and their respective leadership must acknowledge a primary responsibility for the persistence of electoral violence and consequently, a primary responsibility in its eradication.

As we strive for a democratic peace, governance and prosperity, it is essential that the integrity of the electoral process be protected and that the issues raised above, are dealt with accordingly.

CMEV was formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Against Political Violence as an independent and non-partisan organization to monitor the incidence of election related violence.

Signed: Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, Co-Convenor
Signed: Sundanda Deshapriya, Co-Convenor

22nd January, 2004

 

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