Bill criticized as disenfranchising many Tamils

[TamilNet, Thursday, 02 September 2004, 14:28 GMT]
''The passage of 'Elections Special Provisions' Bill in Sri Lanka's parliament compelling citizens of Sri Lanka to produce National Identity Cards (NIC) to exercise his or her vote would tantamount to disenfranchising a large number of Tamil people, and would cause them irreparable political harm,'' said Mr.R.Sampanthan, parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in a letter faxed to Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse through the Secretary General of the Parliament Thursday.

Mr.Sampanthan requested the Prime Minister and other party leaders to refrain from fixing a date for the 2nd reading debate of the Bill.

The Prime Minister Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse Thursday afternoon met the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament regarding fixing the date for the Second Reading of the Elections Special Provisions Act bill in Committee Room 3 of the parliament. As Mr.Sampanthan could not attend the meeting he sent the letter to the Prime Minister stating the position of the TNA in regard to the matter.

Full text of the letter follows:

''The position of the TNA is that the Bill should be enacted until National Identity Cards have been issued to all citizens entitled to same, without any discrimination on the basis of nationality.

''Administrative assurances in regard to the issue of NIC will not suffice. Even if the administrative assurances are not kept, once the Law is enacted, it will prevail and much harm would be caused to persons who do not possess NIC. The vast majority of persons who will be so harmed will be the Tamil people.

''A large number of Tamil citizens in the plantation sector do not have the NIC for reasons beyond their control or they have several problems relating thereto.

''Tamil citizens in the North East have been dislocated. Many Tamils do not have NICs as their houses were burnt. There has been no proper census in all parts of the North-East. The Tamil people living in areas in the North-East not under the government control; and this is substantial number, do not have NICs.

''All these facts should not be disregarded in rushing through legislation making compulsory the production of NICs whenever a citizen has to exercise his vote, in regard to any matter. In particular, it should be borne in mind that the persons who will be harmed are from Tamil Nationality. This would be tantamount to disenfranchising a large number of Tamil people and would cause them irreparable harm politically.

''If this legislation is enacted before such Tamil people are issued with their NICs, the implementation of the legislation would result in substantial numbers of Tamil people being denied their most valued fundamental right, to partake on equal terms in a democratic process.

'' Any verdict in any democratic process in such circumstances, would be severely flawed.

'' In the circumstances, I have to urge the Hon. Prime Minister and party leaders, to refrain from fixing a date for the 2nd reading debate of the Bill.


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