CaFFE: Thousands in Ki'linochchi, Mullaiththeevu to be disenfranchised

[TamilNet, Thursday, 08 July 2010, 14:41 GMT]
After a fact finding mission to the North, Campaign for Free and Faie Elections (CaFFE), an election watchdog, said that in Ki'linochchi only 16 out of the 96 Kiraama Chevakar (GS) Divisions have received voter registration forms, and in Mullaiththeevu none of the 127 divisions have been distributed with registration forms. CAFFE statement further adds that election officials have written off " 40,000+" IDPs still living in camps. Camp resident IDPs are widely believed to exceed 80,000.

Full text of CAFFE's press release follows:

Voter registry revision process in some parts of the North has ground to a standstill due to the numerous unfilled vacancies at the Grama Niladari (GN) Divisions, the lack of resources and the total absence of Election Department officials to monitor how the revision process is carried out in the ground level says Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE.)

In the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo the Department of Elections have taken steps to appoint ‘counting officers’ for Grama Niladari divisions that does not have a permanent Grama Niladari while many Grama Niladaris in the North, where a voter registry revision has not occurred in almost 15 years, have to run operations in two GN divisions making it impossible for them to fully focus on the voter registry revision. Adding to this heavy work load are transportation issues and lack of resources faced by the Grama Niladaris. Many parts of the Northern Province do not have a functioning transport system while there is a serious lack of infrastructure. CaFFE proposes that elections officials, civil administrators and civil society organizations should come together immediately to address and rectify the issues hampering the voter registry revision process.

During a fact finding mission to the North last week CaFFE representatives discovered that there are vacancies at 20% of Grama Niladari divisions in Mannar District while 81 Grama Niladari divisions in the Jaffna District have ‘acting’ Grama Niladaris. Because of the lack of Grama Niladaris, who carry out civil administrative functions at the grass root level including the basics of the revision process, and the lack of resources voter registration application forms have not been distributed in Chavakachcheri, Kopay, Kankesanthurai and Manipay of Jaffna District even by July 3rd. it is to be noted that the voter registration revision commenced on June 1st

Nanattan District Secretary’s (DS) Division seems to be the only success story in Mannar district which has 5 Divisional Secretary's Divisions, Madhu, Nanattan, Mannar, Manthei west and Musali which are further sub-divided into 153 Grama Niladhari Divisions. All the other DS divisions are lagging behind and the majority of the residents have no idea about the process.

Voter registration forms have not been distributed even within the Kilinochchi city limits. Overall forms have been distributed only 16 Grama Niladari divisions in the Kilinochchi District which has 96 Grama Niladari divisions.

The situation is even worse in Mulativu where even registration form has been distributed in any of the Grama Niladari divisions. Mulativu has five District Secretary’s divisions which are further divided into 127 Grama Niladari divisions. Also the Department of Elections seem to have written off the 40,000 + IDPs who still live in camps. It is virtually impossible to register these men and women since they don’t have a permanent address and the officials in charge of the resettlement process are not in a position to guarantee where these IDPs will be resettled. Therefore there is a strong possibility that the IDPs will loose their voting rights and will not be able to vote in the coming local council elections.

Although the department of elections has set up a ‘special election office’ in Kilinochchi there are only five staff members attached to the office and none of them are residents of Kilinochchi. Three staffers are attached to the Vavuniya elections office while the other two belong to Jaffna elections office and have to travel a great distance to come to work. CaFFE team also found out that the office is open only on 2-3 days a week. Some Grama Niladaris are desperately struggling to carry out the voter registration process in some parts of Jaffna and Vanni districts under severe difficulties and there is no one to ease their burden.

If the department of elections do not take action according to the Voter Registration act of 1980 and appoint ‘renovation officers’ to areas without Grama Niladaris thousands of people in the North will loose their voting rights CaFFE stresses.

Keerthi Tennakoon
July 08, 2010


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