Electoral reforms a dire need in Sri Lanka

10 March 2014 09:23 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The voters are getting ready to vote at the Western Province and Southern Province elections on 29 March 2014. The two provinces consist of substantial voter strength in the island. Compared to other provinces they too are more important politically and economically earning and spending the highest quotas of national income and expenditure. The two provinces also edge out other provinces in natural resources and in the fields of education.




Objectives
The people go to vote with many hopes and aspirations. The hardships in day-to-day living, non-tolerable price structure, much desired law and order often running erratically, corruption, disappearances and so forth too are widely alleged. Drinking water problem, discriminatory road repairs, arrests without sufficient probing of background circumstances too continually raise the people’s concern. They are uneasy that some politicians and state officials are largely self-interested in themselves rather than the development of the country.

In some parties the gap between the leader and the leadership is large. There are no policy alternatives for development presented by any party in the opposition in which some constituent sections are now apparently in disarray.



Pressure and obligation
From all media and political discourses the obligation to vote is stressed and on the other, there is political pressure by all the party’s contesting men and women to elect them, claiming they are the most suitable candidates to represent them in the Councils.




Malpractices
Malpractices occur or more correctly, they are engineered or masterminded by contesting candidates themselves or others on their behalf as observed in the previous elections. The malpractices include vote-rigging, impersonation, stuffing, interference or pressure on the polling station management, keeping with oneself legal ballot papers or any other official document with bad intentions etc. The consequences are serious and could result in a long range of ill-effects to the election administration immediately and finally may tarnish the country.

On long-term anticipation, the voter needs elimination of crime, corruption, dishonesty and disappearances.

An election soiled with malpractices could fail to gain local acceptance of the result. The consequences would even lead to lower the international standards of a free and fair elections. Malpractices with or without affecting the law and order situation may result in a poor voter turnout. Consequences may result in protest politics sooner or later. They could damage the country further, causing charges of lack of transparency in the election process. Therefore those engaged in elections should act responsibly and with a genuine sense of discipline and ensure that their followers too follow suit.




Effective Choice
The people have openly revolted against giving nominations for individuals with serious misdemeanor and criminal backgrounds. They want rightfully to discourage and do away with corrupt practices in politics. The political parties are generally obliged to the people to give them a fair and effective choice of candidates to vote for. Limping horses, however much elegant they be, are better left in the stable rather than being selected to run the race at a heavy risk.




Reforms
In order to improve the status of elections, the most welcome suggestion seems to be the appointing of the Elections Commission, enabling the entity to look into all ills and evils including low voter percentages, misuse of ballot papers, unstable security systems when transporting boxes to the counting centres and back into the stores after the count is concluded, for safe keeping. The views on reforms should also be consulted at a wide forum level like that of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission held regarding wartime incidents.




Election integrity
During the 1988/89 rebellion, there were several hundreds of young men taken in as detainees at the Boosa Camp. There were no charges framed against them. One of them sent a postcard addressed to the Chief Justice requesting him to either take legal action against them or release them. The Chief Justice at that time was said to have treated the said postcard as a proper Human Rights Petition and took necessary action on it. At this moment Human Rights lawyers and activists represented the interests of the youthful detainees. The Supreme Court held that they be released. Thus, many Commissions/HR Petitions have secured justice to the deserved.
Instead of expecting voters to appeal, the Elections Commissioner may alternatively carry out an audit operating backwards, of the outcome of several past elections and submit his report to the President, as a novel initiative to appoint an Elections Commission for the greater good of the nation. This way, the President, the Elections Commissioner and all those people of integrity may take this election as an opportunity to turn the whole electoral system in Sri Lanka democratically into a more delightful state in the Indian Ocean.
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