Residents suspect jilmart in distribution of voter registration forms

By Mirudhula Thambiah

The registration of the voters’ list for 2010 has begun but allegations persist that the distribution of forms is being carried out in a selective manner.

The distribution of registration forms started on June 1 but several residents in Colombo complained that they were yet to receive the forms and they feared they could be deprived of their voting rights as happened to tens of thousands of city residents during the 2004 elections.

Dismissing the allegations, Assistant Elections Commissioner P.M. Siriwardana said the distribution was proceeding smoothly but the process was slow because of a shortage of grama niladharis.
He said the department had recruited additional persons to assist the grama niladaris in the distribution process.

However, People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said complaints had been received that grama niladaris and his workers were selective in their distribution of the forms in several areas and this could lead to some voters being deprived of a vote. He said that according to complaints, in some areas in the south, forms were being distributed in a haphazard manner.

Mr. Hettiarachchi said some people had been asked to produce a letter or documents to prove their earlier residencies also if they wanted to be registered as voters.

The PAFFREL chief said the grama niladharis also faced problems. They had to visit some areas, especially urban areas, several times, since most of the people were not at home when they visited.
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Director Keerthi Tennakoon said the voter registration was a major problem in the estate sector because some people did not have birth certificates or national identity cards.

Another problem the estate sector people faced with regard to voter registration was that they did not have proper address. As a result, they had to collect the forms from different places, he said.

Minister Muthu Sivalingam who represents the estate sector people said volunteers from his party, the Ceylon Workers Congress, were assisting the grama niladaris in the distribution of the forms and the party was also conducting a mobile service to educate the people on the importance of being a voter and how they could register themselves as voters.

Gampaha District’s Assistant Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed said the distribution of voter registration forms were continuing in the district and they hoped to complete it by the end of August.
He said people who were registering for the first time would have to prove their places of residence because their names would appear on the voters’ list only after a scrutiny at the divisional secretary’s office.

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