An observer group of the Commonwealth will be in Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya to monitor the upcoming presidential election next month, the Commonwealth announced.
Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, former President of Guyana, will lead the nine-member Observer Group which will be in Sri Lanka from 2 to 14 January 2015.
Announcing the mission, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma reiterated the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.
"Genuine democratic elections are an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of a country, the free expression of whose will provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government," he said.
Observing that Sri Lanka has among the oldest democratic traditions in the Commonwealth, Mr Sharma added that "The people of Sri Lanka should be able to freely exercise their franchise, in an enabling environment marked by transparency, a level playing field, and adherence to the laws and norms that govern a credible and peaceful election. For this, key stakeholders must play their due roles."
The Observer Group will consider the pre-electoral environment and preparations. On Election Day and thereafter, members will observe the voting process, counting and tabulation procedures and the announcement of results.
The Group will act impartially and make an independent assessment of the electoral process. It will conduct itself according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation to which Sri Lanka has committed itself.
Upon completion of its assignment, the Group will submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Commissioner of Elections and the principal political parties, before making it available to all Commonwealth Governments, and eventually releasing it into the public domain.
A five-member team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by Ms Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Rule of Law Division, will support the group.
The full composition of the Commonwealth Observer Group is:
• Dr Bharrat Jagdeo (Chair), Former President,Guyana
• Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, The Coalition of Free and Fair Elections, Malaysia
• Dr Campbell Gordon Calder,Former Member of Parliament, New Zealand
• Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira, Former Minister and Member of Parliament, Pakistan
• Mr Eldred De Klerk, Rule of law and elections security expert,South Africa
• Dr Sally Kosgei, Former Minister and Member of Parliament,Kenya
• Ms Sa-adatu Maida, Election Commissioner, Ghana
• Mr Brij Bihari Tandon, Former Election Commissioner of India,India
• Ms Lainy Malkani, Media Expert, United Kingdom