Observers criticize State media, commend Commissioner, Police

[TamilNet, Saturday, 03 April 2004, 17:41 GMT]
While criticising the State media as biased and its absence of balance "during the campaign cast a long shadow over this election process," Hon Margaret Reid, chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), Saturday issued an interim statement on Sri Lanka General Election 2004 commended the Election Commissioner, his staff and the Police "for their preparations and their performance on the day."

Excerpts from the statement follow:

"It is difficult to describe an electoral process as fair when the State media is as biased as it has been in Sri Lanka in the run-up to this general election. Balance on the part of the State media-with its particular authority and reach-is essential for democracy. Its absence during the campaign cast a long shadow over this election process.

"The second shadow was cast by violence and intimidation during the campaign. We commend the Police and the Commissioner of Elections for their efforts to achieve a violence-free general election. Terrorism, assassinations and other violence strike at the very heart of the democratic process and undermine development and prosperity.

"After this, the events of polling day came as a pleasant surprise. The results process is continuing, so it is too early to give a judgment on that. However, the voting has concluded and, while I will need more time before I make any statement about the situation in the north and east I can report that our teams elsewhere in the country have told me that the arrangements made by the Commissioner of Elections were effective. According to our observation, the voters were able cast their ballots freely, the secrecy of the ballot was assured, large numbers of people were processed with efficiency and the party agents were satisfied We noted that the parties had put forward few women candidates, but many women voted. I should add that Observer Teams were given full access to polling places.

"The Commissioner, his staff and the Police are to be commended both for their preparations and their performance on the day. I congratulate the many individuals and organizations, which have worked hard with great dedication for a good general election.

"This interim statement is very much preliminary in nature, an initial comment rather than a final judgment on the general election. That final judgment will come in our Report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General and will be based on full reports from all our Teams, collective discussion by the Group and thorough assessment of the totality of the electoral process. Our Teams return to Colombo tomorrow. We will then begin writing that report, which we will complete and sign in the capital before we depart on 8th April 2004."


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