By Charitha Herath –
The report of the Commonwealth Observer Group on the Parliamentary Election on 17th August 2015 was released. At the outset The Report shows that it goes beyond its mandate to ‘monitor’ the Parliamentary Election of 2015. It analysis’ the ‘advantages of having elected a new President on 8th of January 2015’ for the democracy in this country. It further ‘colored’ the event of the Presidential Election in the way that they ‘imagined’. For example, The Report says “the atmosphere in the run up to the polls on 8th January was highly charged, and there was a palpable sense of unease across the country”. People who lived in this country on 8th of January would know the real picture of this situation and the Election Commissioner himself declared that the ‘atmosphere was not uneasy’ in the country at that election. The Report further claimed that the Presidential Election on January “did not meet the benchmark of a democratic election” but “reflected the will of the people of Sri Lanka”. A very interesting impartiality though!
Secondly, The Report did not include the removal of two secretaries of SLFP and UPFA which was to happen on the last day of the campaign, into the body of findings or the body of the analysis as a whole. Any student of politics in modern days would agree that this act would not be appropriated with any given justice or ethical formats in politics. In fact this act was one of the crucial and critically important activities happening in the pre- election campaign period which impacted and influenced upon the election results. The report goes on leaving the importunacy of this undemocratic move out from their ‘findings’ and interestingly escapes the issue by putting little footnote on this “unimportant” act out from the eye.
This ‘wonderful’ footnote in this Observer Report, which locks one of the most important evident/finding of the campaign process of this parliamentary election. It says (very ‘relax’ and ‘unrelated way’ to the elections process) that “on 14th August … President Sirisena removed general secretaries of both his party and alliance respectively”. If not else, this is an interesting ‘devaluation’ of the incident what has happen on that day. These two secretaries were sacked without any inquiries and violating the procedures of the elections. They were blocked to engage campaign related activities. If this was not related to the elections process what else would be related that would be the decisive factor of in this election? If this did not impact upon the results of the election what else would we have expected from this report of observation?
This footnote also hides another couple of important activities without going into details. The footnote says “13th August, in his capacity as president of the SLFP, Mr. Sirisena wrote a letter to Mr. Rajapaksa and this received wide media coverage”. Again very interesting to note that the sentences conclude without indicating “what was the content of that letter” and “how it was effected to the election process”! As a fact we know what was in that letter. It ‘informed’.
Mr. Rajapaksa that even if the UPFA would get the majority members of the parliament, he (MR) would be suitable for the prime minister position and suggested possible other names for such high job (including Susil Premajayanth and Anura priyadarshan Yapa who were sacked from their partly membership the next day).
If the Commonwealth Observer Group thinks that ‘inside contents’ of the said letter was not important to the findings of the report, or analysis of the ‘influence to free and fair elections’, the impartiality of the reports are highly questionable.
I can ask the same question they raised on the presidential polls in the report. Did these activities help to meet the “benchmark of democratic elections” that the Commonwealth Observer Group expected?