Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has issued the report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Sri Lanka's Northern Provincial Council Election, held on 21 September 2013.
The Secretary-General, describing the election as an historic election for Sri Lanka, and one which the Commonwealth was pleased to have been invited to observe said the Commonwealth observers had found the conduct of the election day itself to be impressive.
“Voters turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise, and electoral officials conducted polling with dedication and diligence,” he said. “The post-results environment was also peaceful and for this, we commend the leadership of the participating political parties.”
Mr Sharma also noted the Observer Mission’s call for the establishment of an independent electoral commission, which is a widely valued Commonwealth good practice. The Secretary-General said: “We have an ongoing programme of work with Sri Lanka. We stand ready to assist Sri Lanka in strengthening its electoral framework as well.
“I echo the sentiments of the Commonwealth Observer Mission in hoping that this historic election marks a step forward in the harmonious development of the Northern Province and of Sri Lanka as a whole.”
The Commonwealth Observation Mission was in Sri Lanka from 14 – 28 September. Its mandate required its members to observe and consider all aspects of the electoral process and to assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections reflected in a national election-related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth as well as other international commitments.
The Observer Mission met with a range of stakeholders and on election day its members were present in the five districts of the Northern Province.
Excerpts from the Report:
These were landmark elections in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. In approaching our task, we were conscious that these were the first Northern Provincial Council Elections held since the end of the civil conflict in May 2009, and since the Provincial Council system was established.
We were impressed by the administrative arrangements for voting and counting made by the Commissioner of Elections and his staff across the Northern Province, who approached their duties with diligence and dedication. Election Day itself was largely peaceful, with only isolated incidents reported.
We were impressed by the determination and resilience of voters to exercise their franchise in the context of a compromised electoral environment. It is our sincere hope that this election will mark a forward step in the post -conflict development of the Northern Province.
The closing of polls was conducted in a very professional and organised manner, and
it was clear that most SPOs had substantial experience of undertaking similar duties
in the past. At polling stations attended by the Mission, all those present, including polling agents, were satisfied with the arrangements for securing the box, completing the necessary paperwork and transporting the sealed box under police protection to the locations at which counting was to take place.
The Mission appreciated that the environment post the announcement of results remained largely calm, and attributes this to the statements and actions of the leadership of the major political alliances.
We commend the Commissioner of Elections and his staff across the Northern Province, who approached their duties with diligence and dedication. The administrative arrangements for voting and counting in this election were impressive. Election Day itself was largely peaceful, with only isolated incidents reported.
We commend the voters for their commitment to the democratic process. There was a large voter turn-out of 67.52%.
We are pleased to highlight that we received full cooperation from the Sri Lankan Government and the Commissioner of Elections. Pursuant to our mandate, we have offered a number of constructive recommendations to help improve the electoral process and environment.
Our team now departs Sri Lanka. We would very much like to thank you for the opportunity of being of service to the Commonwealth. I would also like to thank the Secretariat for all the support to the Observer Mission.