"The identification of areas where changes are needed to the election laws, the introduction of advanced voting system,"
Mr. Talangama met with this debacle when he tried to stop an unlawful vehicular procession after the nominations were closed on August 5. Starting with this incident, the Elections Department has to grapple with different forms of violations. It has to muster its fullest strength to cope up with many such cases being reported from the electoral districts of Badulla and Monaragala.
Unlawful cut-outs and posters, display of stickers on passenger transport buses bearing the names, symbols and preferential numbers of candidates in the fray, and drawing of such party symbols on highways and are the commonly found violations of the election law. Against this backdrop, the Elections Office is constrained, both in terms of finances and personnel, to contain the flouting of the election law. Above all, the Elections Commissioner’s hands are legally tightened in taking action against errant candidates or parties. In fact, the Elections Commissioner is even unable to make a public statement regarding candidates who breach the election law. Therefore, the Commissioner and his officials, more than anyone else, feel the necessity to strengthen the existing law giving it more teeth to act upon.
As a step in this direction, Commissioner Mahinda Desapriya sought to engage with the major political parties. Nonetheless, he had one impediment. The conference rooms of the Election Department are under repairs at the moment. Hence, it is unable for him to convene meeting at his office at the moment. Therefore, he, along with his officials, opted for the next best thing - to interact with the parties at places convenient to them.
The first such meeting was conducted with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the parties politically aligned with it.
The identification of areas where changes are needed to the election laws, the introduction of advanced voting system, and the need to introduce electronic voting were among subject matters discussed with SLFP and its allies at a meeting conducted in the parliamentary complex. SLFP General Secretary Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena and United Freedom People’s Alliance (UPFA) Secretary Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha participated in this meeting.
Here, the Commissioner stressed the need for an advanced voting system to facilitate those employees, not eligible for postal voting, to cast their ballots. There are thousands of employees engaged in essential services such as health. But, they are not entitled to apply for postal voting . Only employees of government ministries and departments, and school teachers can apply for it. Therefore, the Elections Department wants a separate mechanism to ensure the voting rights of employees of other sectors.
Besides, he asked for the help of political parties to introduce a law that would enablespersons confined to wheelchairs to cast their ballots at a place outside polling stations.
Persons with such disabilities are unable to enter polling stations. So, there must be legal provisions for an official to take ballot papers to such voters remaining outside polling stations, to be marked.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has agreed to a similar meeting after August 25. The Commissioner has sought appointments with the United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).