A Commonwealth Election monitoring mission that concluded its work one week following the historic Northern Provincial Council polls last month said there were “serious and fundamental” flaws in the electoral process and slammed the military for its involvement in the democratic process, but the concerns were brushed aside by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma who released the strong report in London.
The Commonwealth Monitoring Mission headed by a former Kenyan Vice President said that voters had been able to express their will on polling day but added that because of issues leading up to September 21, the elections had not fully meet the key benchmarks for democratic elections.
Issuing a damning indictment on the role of security forces in the electoral process the mission said in its concluding report that election campaign in the Northern Province appeared to have been conducted in a compromised and subdued environment.
“This seemed, to the Mission, to be attributed in large part to the presence and influence of the military in the province. The role of the military in the electoral campaign was consistently described to the Mission as a significant obstacle to a credible electoral process,” the final report of the Commonwealth monitors noted
The mission said it was impressed by the determination and resilience of voters to exercise their franchise in the context of a compromised electoral environment.
But despite the serious concerns expressed by his own monitoring mission, Commonwealth Secretary General in his customary style played down the concerns and hailed polling day as “impressive”. Without reference to the major concerns the monitors had noted about the interference of the army in the elections, Sharma said voters had turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise, and electoral officials conducted polling with dedication and diligence.
The Secretary-General, however, drew attention to the Commonwealth Observer Mission’s concerns about the pre-electoral environment. He said: “I support the Observer Mission’s view that an election is a process and not an event. The pre-electoral environment is vital to its integrity and credibility.”
Kamalesh Sharma has come in for strong criticism about glossing over Sri Lanka’s poor human rights record and the consistent assaults on democracy and the rule of law by the country’s ruling Rajapaksa regime. Sharma has constantly blocked attempts by Commonwealth member states to call Sri Lanka to account in the run up to the CHOGM in Colombo next month. In the past two months, Colombo Telegraph has exclusively revealed how Sharma’s office buried two crucial reports on the flawed impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake by two independent Commonwealth jurists. The reports were commissioned by Sharma himself and never disclosed even to the powerful Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group that measures states’ compliance to the organisation’s core values and principles.