For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
|By Kelum Bandara
The government yesterday objected to moves to send experts from the United Nations here to monitor the presidential election scheduled for January 26.
However, the government said it would not oppose the presence of UN election observers for this purpose.
UPFA Secretary and Minister Susil Premajayantha had written to Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake in this regard, sources close to the Minister said.
They said the government had objected to the arrival of UN specialists on various subjects and issues during the election period.
The Commissioner has already requested some international bodies including the UN to send election observers for the presidential poll. However, an official of the Elections Secretariat said, on condition of anonymity, that the UN was yet to respond to the Commissioner’s request. The European Union, nevertheless, has ruled out the possibility of sending its observers due to time and budgetary constraints for the upcoming election.
The EU observers were present in Sri Lanka last during the 2005 presidential election. At that time, they expressed concerns about the non incorporation of certain recommendations made by them to ensure free and fair elections.
The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) is planning to bring a team of election observers from an Asian Election Network based in Bangkok, Thailand. PAFRREL’s Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said they expected at least 40 observers for this election.
Meanwhile, the JVP yesterday appreciated the Election Commissioner’s circular barring senior government officials including the Central Bank Governor and the three armed forcers’ commanders from issuing political statements to the media in the run up to the election.
JVP MP Vijitha Herath said this was a positive step in ensuring a free and fair election.
“However, practical steps should be taken to make sure that these rules and regulations are strictly adhered to by those concerned. Some guidelines have been issued to the media as well. Yet, they are being violated,” he said.
Mr. Herath also charged that government officials attached to the Vocational Training Authority were being used to issue identity cards for voters.
“All these things have to be stopped immediately,” he said.