In final report on Sri Lanka polls EU EOM notes concerns

European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) today presented its final report on the 16 November Presidential election in which it raised concerns on the absence of a law on campaign finance, biased election coverage by private and state media and disinformation in traditional and social media.

The Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Sri Lanka, Ms Marisa Matias, presented the EU EOM’s final report and recommendations at a media briefing in Colombo.

The report offers a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of the 16 November 2019 presidential election.

The EU EOM offers 23 recommendations for improving the framework for elections based on its observations, analysis and extensive discussion with a range of national stakeholders.

Some of the key areas addressed by the recommendations are the adoption of a law on campaign finance, enactment of legislation to strengthen the capacity and procedures of the Election Commission in line with its constitutional mandate, and revision of the Presidential Elections Act, including revision of campaign regulations to ensure equal campaign opportunities.

“An electoral process well managed by the Election Commission and a peaceful campaign on the ground contrasted with divisive rhetoric, hate speech and disinformation in traditional and social media”. She added, “The absence of a law on campaign finance and the biased election coverage by private and state media contributed to an uneven playing field and limited the opportunity for most candidates to convey their message,” Matias said.

The Chief Observer further noted that enduring gaps and restrictions in legislation need to be addressed in line with Sri Lanka’s international commitments, including the adoption of effective measures to tackle the low level of women’s participation in politics.

The EU EOM called on the authorities to enact legislation to strengthen capacity and procedures in line with the Election Commission’s constitutional mandate.

“The law should empower the EC to issue, in a timely manner, binding regulatory instruments with clear provisions for enforcement, and to develop and codify internal procedures,” the EU EOM said.

The report also calls for the Presidential Elections Act to be amended and to remove ambiguity and harmonise terminology with most recent laws and avoid potential for conflicting interpretations.

Sri Lanka was also urged to adopt a law on campaign finance and campaign expenditure. The EU EOM said the law should include clear provisions on timely disclosure before and after elections, oversight, sanctions and enforcement.

“Income and expenditure reports should be audited by a competent independent body with investigative powers.Revise the law to ensure equal campaign opportunities by removing all disproportionate restrictions to campaigning on the ground, including on processions, dissemination of political campaign messages and establishment of campaign offices. Establish unified campaign silence rules for contestants, traditional and online and social media for paid-for campaigning, with clear, enforceable sanctions for non-compliance,” the EU EOM said.

It also called on Sri Lanka to foster the formal cooperation between the election administration and the main social platforms.

“The EC and Facebook should aim at developing more efficient mechanisms to enhance the transparency of campaigning on the platform and the respect for existing campaign rules, including, but not limited to, the electoral silence period. Social platforms, and in this case Facebook in particular, should grant equal treatment in terms of the assistance offered to election management bodies in all countries where they are avenues for political advertising and messaging,” the EU EOM said.

Sri Lanka was also urged to adopt special measures as anticipated by the Constitution to remove barriers and promote equal participation of women in public and political life.

The EU EOM was deployed to Sri Lanka from 11 October to 12 December 2019 with 30 long-term and 30 short-term observers from 27 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland. The EU EOM is independent from any EU institution or member state and is committed to neutrality and to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct, as well as to the laws of Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Very good informative comment by Justin. But his warning will fall on deaf ears. The jingoistic posturing by the “majority community” propagated by the belief that Sri Lanka now has the most “fowerpull” army and airforce in the world, will ultimately end in tears if unchecked.

    Of all the factors put forward for the successful prosecution of the war, very little consideration was given to the CASTE factor. Was this the reason that prevented Prabhakaran deviating from the battlefield and entertaining any thoughts of mainstream politics. Would the Tamil populace have accepted him as their leader without a gun being pointed in their direction?

    Now, there’s an essay for you !

    Ps: Let’s put the victory in perspective. It took 30 years and hundreds of thousands of soldiers to beat a force of thousands. The caste system is a critical factor not only for the duration of the war but also the failure ( by LTTE) to accept or consider other avenues which would have ultimately given the Tamils a seperate state.

  2. Democracy demands truthful transparency or political openness to ALL citizens. Truthful accountability or answerability, to ALL citizens who voted the legislators to the parliament, is also required in any democracy. When practiced, democracy yields the good fruits of freedom, peace, stability, development and prosperity to ALL citizens.

    Consequent to matters raised by Mr C.Vigneswaran, I read an article written in Island Newspaper this week. My main purpose of looking at the article was to know if “Mahawansa” is a book of truthful stories.

    The name “Mahawansa” in Tamil is “Maha Wamsam” which means Big Generation. Obviously, the objective of the book was to show the bigness of a generation of people.
    The truthfulness or falsification of any brave incident can only be confirmed by the writer or writers of this book. But one could see the purpose of this book was to promote bravery amongst the generations and blatant exaggerations that can never be true.

    In the article written in The Island Newspaper I read the following exaggerations.
    1. Mahawansa speaks of many “Malabaris” in Jaffna and writer Somadev says that Malabaris are not Tamils. Foolishly the writer argues that the term “Tamil” was started by Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, though Tamils had Kings of Fame of Seran, Cholan and Pandyan Tamil Kings of excellence ruling justly in many parts of the world.
    Canadian government issued postage stamps for 2020 Thai Pongal, to honour the three Kings. Further, Malabar is the name of a place and people from Malabar, regardless of the language they speak, and their religion. including Tamils have to be and were called Malabaris. India was ruled by Moguls and hence the Muslim religion was seen in Jaffna. So, the truth or falsehood cannot be argued out. It is known only by the original writer of Mahawamsa, but the purpose he wrote was to show that they are a big generation.
    2. No sensible person can believe that Jaffna was defeated by mighty Portuguese and the Dutch with cannons and a Brave Sinhala soldier fighting with bows and arrows came all the way to Jaffna and chased away the occupying army.
    From these examples and many other such stories, the Sinhalese were falsely ego boosted to show that they were Maha Wamsam.

    This untruthful Ego boosting made many Sinhalese to be killed as Cannon Fodder to the British troops in 1815. It could bring total destruction if Sinalese continue to believe the untruthful incidents narrated in Mahavansa.

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