Sri Lankan electoral monitoring groups have expressed grave doubts about the fairness of the election with respect to Tamils in the North.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has listed a catalogue of means by which Tamil ‘IDP’s’ were deprived of their democratic right to vote.
In their post-election briefing paper, they show that ‘IDP’s’ in different areas faced very different hurdles. In Vavuniya, for example, 55% were able to cast their vote but only 8% were able to vote in Mullaitivu district. This was compounded by very different turnouts – 22% in the Jaffna district but only 3.5% in Kilinochchi. This blows apart the argument that Tamils, once again, chose not to vote in this election.
CMEV highlights the many practical obstacles to voting – insufficient identity documents, numerous security checks, authorities failing to organise transport in areas where there is no real freedom of movement as well as explosions on the day. CMEV had raised many of these concerns with government officials, but this did not prevent the problem from occurring.
Highlighting how explosions during the course of election day further resulted in fear and had an additional deterrent effect of voter turnout, CMEV is clear that the GoSL has “compromised the integrity of the electoral process in the north” and it goes on to say, “It is especially regrettable given the imperatives of reconciliation and national unity in this our first post war election”.
The report ends by focusing on the next election, “we strongly urge the Election Commissioner to take the necessary steps to prevent this from occurring in the forthcoming General Election.”
Despite its very rigorous work, CMEV stops short of ‘calling for a redpoll of the north in this presidential election because we are not in possession of the exact figure of effective disenfranchisement.”
As has happened with many of the atrocities in north Sri Lanka, local and international NGOs and UN agencies have responded to the absence of definitive proof – and who can believe the GoSL does not actively intend this outcome? – by backing down and compromising.
In a country where most people are too frightened to do anything at all other than worry about personal interests, CMEV’s approach may be the very most that can be expected. But might this diplomatic approach also help to legitimate today’s wrongdoing at the expense of hoping for better times one day in the future?
The second election monitoring network, Intellectuals for Human Rights (IfHR) is less well known and doesn’t show such a rigorous. extensive process. But its conclusions are more explicit. The “Presidential Election is not free and fair” it concludes.
“Misusing of state properties, four murders, the huge propaganda campaign conducted by the state media in favour of one candidate, biasedness of the police” are among main reasons for their conclusion, according to their chief executive, Professor Uditha Gunasekara.
What is clear is that the result in the North and East is the opposite of the rest of rest of the country. This is an uncomfortable fact that many would like to hide from. It has, however, been noted by even President Rajapaksa who tried to cover this up by saying he is also president of those who didn’t vote for him. What he avoided saying is what he will actually do which reflects the views of all those who profoundly disagree with him.
At a time of huge repression of dissent by the opposition and the media, these electoral monitoring conclusions – the rigor of the CMEV process and the blunt conclusions of IfHR statements – offer yet more evidence of what this Campaign has said ever since we started. Sri Lanka is slipping into an elected dictatorship. Significant parts of Sinhalese society support this, either for chauvinistic reasons or because they have been indoctrinated to do so – and probably an unholy mix of the two – is even more worrying. But it is no reason to accept it as a fait accomplis. One can expect demonstrations and other shows of non-violent protest (assuming they are allowed) in SL, providing evidence that many will now work hard to hold this corrupt system to higher standards of accountability. This Campaign will do nothing less.