EU report calls for international body to administer future elections in NorthEast

[TamilNet, Friday, 10 March 2006, 06:44 GMT]
Chief Observer of EU Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) to Sri Lanka, John Cushnahan, commenting on the report of the EU-EOM for the 2005 Sri Lankan Presidential elections, has called for an International Organisation to "administer" and "supervise", on the invitation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) the parties to the peace process, if future elections in LTTE controlled and influenced areas are to be held in accordance with internationally recognised principles. The EU report also stated that the SL Supreme Court Interim order of 9th November introduced "de facto" discriminatory measures against voters in LTTE controlled areas.

Full text of the Press Release issued by the EU Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) to Sri Lanka, follows:

Friday, 10 March 2006

EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Sri Lanka


Commenting on the report EU Chief Observer Mr. John Cushnahan said:

“Compared to previous elections which I observed, the 2005 Presidential election was conducted in a much improved election environment in the South of the country. However, a very different scenario was to be found in the North and East. In the areas which the LTTE either controlled or exercised influence, there was little tangible evidence to show that an election process had actually taken place. Political campaigning was non existent and voters were prevented from exercising their franchise because of an enforced boycott by the LTTE and its proxies. Regrettably this was a repeat of what had happened during previous elections in these same areas and can no longer be ignored.

The recommendations of earlier EU-EOM’s are re-stated because most of them have not yet been implemented. They remain essential ingredients for strengthening the electoral process. However, on their own, they are insufficient to address the fundamental malaise that exists in those areas of the North and East where voters and parties have consistently been denied the opportunity to fully participate in the democratic process. It is clear that more radical measures are necessary to transform this situation.

It is now clear that if future elections in LTTE controlled areas are to be held in accordance with internationally recognised principles for genuine democratic elections, they will have to be administered and supervised by an international body as has happened in other countries that are in transition because of conflict. This approach was used recently in Afghanistan and prior to that in Cambodia (1993), South Africa (1994), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996-2001), Eastern Slavonia (1997) Liberia (1997), East Timor (2000-02) and Kosovo (2001-03). Lessons can be learnt from these experiences, adapted and applied to the North-eastern parts of Sri Lanka. Obviously such a body could only be invited into Sri Lanka if both parties to the peace process were in agreement. In this regard it is important to point out that both the GOSL and the LTTE have obligations to respect human rights if they are to receive funding under the Tokyo Donor Conference Declaration (2003).

It is important to remind everyone that successive EU EOM’s have consistently defended the rights of all voters and all parties and criticized those responsible for preventing them from exercising their franchise, no matter who they were.

Once again we repeat our call that Amendment 17 which provides for the establishment of a number of independent commissions including an independent Election Commission should be fully implemented. This should happen without any further procrastination. Further improvements to the Legal Framework are also necessary in the areas of complaints and appeals procedures, the use of a national identity document for voting provided everybody is issued with one, the rights of migrant workers, transparency regarding campaign expenditure and the introduction of limits, the rights of 18 year old first time voters and the right of domestic observers to be present in counting centres as well as polling stations. Additionally the law in relation to annulling election results lacks clarity and needs to be overhauled. The Supreme Court Interim order of 9th November introduces “de facto” discriminatory measures against voters in LTTE controlled areas and should be brought into line with international standards for universal and equal suffrage.

The overall performance of the Election Administration was highly professional and impartial. The Commissioner of Elections enjoyed both the confidence of political parties in the country and is also held in high regard by both foreign and domestic election observers alike. We make a number of recommendations regarding technical improvements that could be introduced to assist their task.

It is important to point out that the voter registration process contains fundamental deficiencies which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. There are major problems in the North and East and serious inaccuracies also arose during this election with regard to the register in Colombo. The EU EOM recommends that the voter register is fully computerised, centralised and systematically updated including LTTE controlled areas.

Throughout the campaign period, the state controlled print and electronic media showed substantial bias in favour of the Prime Minister. Conversely the private media demonstrated partiality towards the UNP candidate. While this situation might have provided a measure of equilibrium, it cannot be ignored that state media have particular obligations to act impartially and if they do not then earlier action should be taken by the Election Administration to establish a Competent Authority to oversee the state media. In the view of the EU EOM an Independent Authority should be set up with a clear mandate to establish clear guidelines for all media, state and private, which would apply at all times and not simply during an election campaign. These guidelines while guaranteeing fairness should not interfere with editorial independence.

The two main domestic organizations, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) played an important role in observing this election.

The EU EOM strongly recommends that their right to be able to observe polling and counting procedures should be enshrined in law. The EU EOM appreciates the co-operation and assistance it received from these and other civil society organizations”.


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