An Update from PAFFREL
Preparation for the Local Authority Elections in Mullativu
In Sri Lanka there are 335 Local Authorities. In the year of 2011, we have completed elections for 333 Local Authorities out of 335. This was done in three phases. What remains to be held are the Local Authorities in Maritime Paththuu and Puthukuduirappu in the Mulathivu District. Nominations were received for these two Local Authorities during the first phase of the elections on 20 January 2011. Elections for these two Local Authorities were postponed three times due to land mines and due to delay in resettlement of displaced persons. The Election Commission has now declared elections for these two Local Authorities which will now be held on 24 March 2012.
The final face of the elections for the Local Authorities, which is scheduled for 24 March. is Puthukudirippu and Maritimepathu. Elections in these two Local Authorities are being held for the first time in over two decades. The number of voters who will be casting their votes is 23,169 in Pudukudirippu and and 21,159 in Merritime Pattu (of which 970 voters are still in welfare camps). The Election Department has organized transport services for the voters in the camp to be transported to the respective polling booths on election day at the cost of the Department of Elections. We have had a number of discussions with the Election Department about important issues regarding the voters in the camp. PAFFREL has been closely monitoring the situation and notes that the enthusiasm of the people is very low. Even the families in resettled temporary shelters do not seem to be interested very much in the elections.
In Sri Lanka it is mandatory for an eligible voter to produce an identity card which the Election Department has named as a accepted identity card to cast the vote at any given election. According to the 2010 register there are 22,857 voters who did not mention their National Identity Card numbers in the registration forms. We are unable to say that all the voters who did not mention their National Identity Card numbers do not have National Identity cards. But there may be considerable number who do not have any form of identification cards, specially the National Identification card. In the meantime, the Election Department officials have issued 6,015 temporary ID applications to the Grama Niladari. According to the request of GN’s (Puthkudirippu 4165 & Maritimepaththu 1850). One of the Grama Niladari we met (101 Wathipali GN Devi son) In Meritimepattu. She informed us that 92 voters did not mention their NID’s. In the form out of which only 72 people do not have National Identity cards.
This was an area of concern for the voters were lack of identification papers. Temporary identity cards have been issued to the voters to enable them to cast their vote at the forth coming local authority elections, by the Department of Elections. With the intention of giving a permanent solution to this problem, PAFFREL along with the Department of Registration of persons have scheduled two mobile programmes to help the people to obtain their National Identity Cards. In order to facilitate this process PAFFEL has organized a publicity campaign to educated the people. In addition pocket meetings will also be used to advertise the program in addition to the distribution of leaflets, poster and announcements using public address systems.
Voter Education Programs
A random study conducted by PAFFREL showed that there were a large number of voters who had not registered as voters in the voter register. This was an area of concern. PAFFREL being mindful of this orgnised many programmes with close collaboration with the Election Department to facilitate the process. A strong publicity campaign was launched to educate the public regarding the importance of voter registration. Pocket meetings, distribution of publicitymaterial, press releases and display of posters were part of the campaign to educate the people.
In additions public seminars were also organized with the participation of all stakeholders to discuss problems with regards to the voter registration process in the north. Parliamentarians, District Commissioners of Elections, candidates who were contesting the local authorities of the area, civil society leaders, The Grama Niladaris , Police, and Government officials directly involved in the process were able to shed light on some of the key problems regarding the voter registration. This progrmme proved to be a great success, as after this seminar there were over 30,000 forms which were handed over to the Assistant Commissioner of Electionsin the districts. We are proved to note that PAFFREL is considered a key organization in the Election Monitoring process which has earned respect and recognition from the Politicians, Election Department and mammy the civil society.