Authorities in Sri Lanka should ensure that voters have safe and secure access to the polls to vote in parliamentary elections on Monday (17), Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.
Local monitoring groups have reported numerous incidents of election-related violence and campaigning irregularities in the month leading up to the nationwide polls.
“With evidence already of violence in the run-up to these elections, Sri Lankan authorities should take all necessary steps to protect voters and party supporters from attacks, threats, and intimidation,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should also ensure that voters can travel safely and securely to the polling booths and back.”
“Sri Lanka has a long history of attackers getting away with election-related violence. A few arrests, while a positive step, do not address these longstanding concerns,” Adams said. “State authorities need to pursue each attack vigorously to send an unequivocal message that there will be no obstacles to fair and free elections.”
The Sri Lankan Election Commission and the state security forces had played a constructive and neutral role during the January 8 presidential elections. Those authorities should ensure that police and other security forces act in an impartial manner throughout the electoral process and respect the human rights of all voters.
“The role played by the security forces during and after Election Day will send an important message about the future of human rights in Sri Lanka,” Adams said. “Meeting the basic requirements of a free and fair election is an important step toward addressing the country’s persistent rights problems.”