Fears that EU monitors may not be allowed at upcoming elections

By Leon Berenger

Independent poll observers are concerned that the government may say no to European Union representatives monitoring the upcoming elections, because relations between the two sides have deteriorated over a number of issues, chiefly GSP+ and human rights.

The observers said they had reliable information of such a move, and that they have been in close touch with the local diplomatic community in this connection.

“If this is to be the case, it will be a dangerous trend,” said a spokesman for a monitoring group.
The observers have appealed to the Election Commissioner’s office to take the right decision at the right time, while acting in an independent and transparent manner. They say Elections chief Dayanada Dissanayake should put a stop to the recurring pattern of large-scale malpractice at polls, as seen during the regional elections.

Keerthi Tenakoon, media spokesman for the Centre for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), told the Sunday Times that the big issue at the moment was the resettlement of internally displaced persons in the North and East. Because of the war, voters in these areas have not been registered since 1989, he said, and the authorities were doing little to rectify matters, even though elections were on the horizon.
He said CaFFE has launched several grassroots-level voter education programmes ahead of the upcoming polls.

J. C. Weliamuna, executive director of Transparency International in Sri Lanka, said there was much room for malpractice, considering the high-profile nature of the upcoming elections. “The government should know that because it will be a close race there could be large-scale abuse of public property and resources, amounting to malpractice,” he said.

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