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CaFFE Claims Thousands Of IDPs Could Lose Voting Rights

Jul 9, 2010 9:49:14 AM - thesundayleader.lk

The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) in a press release warned that thousands in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts could lose their voting rights, due to a lack of resources and absense of officials for the voter re-registration process.

“The Department of Elections seems to have written off the 40,000 + IDPs who still live in camps,” CaFFE says. “It is virtually impossible to register these men and women since they don’t have a permanent address and the officials in charge of the resettlement process are not in a position to guarantee where these IDPs will be resettled.

“ (The) voter registry revision process in some parts of the North has ground to a standstill,” claims CaFFE, naming unfilled vacancies at the Grama Niladari (GN) divisions as one reason for this.

A CaFFE report also states, “The revision of the registry is hampered by the lack of manpower, proper training and resources…(and) the dire and immediate need of mobile units and additional staff.”

During a fact finding mission to the North last week, CaFFE representatives discovered that there are vacancies at 20% of GN divisions in the Mannar District, while 81 GN divisions in the Jaffna District have ‘acting’ Grama Niladaris.

The Grama Niladaris are responsible for carrying out the basics of the revison process, which is being carried out in the North after almost 15 years, says CaFFE.

CaFFE also notes that by 3rd July, voter registration application forms had not been distributed in Chavakachcheri, Kopay, Kankesanthurai and Manipay.

It is believed that forms for these areas are still being printed, more than a month after voter re-registration began on June 1st.

CaFFE also pointed to “…transportation issues and (a) lack of resources faced by the Grama Niladaris.”

The Sunday Leader contacted Additional Commissioner of Elections Mr. P.M. Siriwardhane, who explained that enumeration work will go on till the end of November.

“We can’t wait till the close of the camps. We have started distributing forms,”said Mr. Siriwardhane.

When questioned regarding the possibility of IDPs losing their voting rights, he said that they needed “more time” and that “it all depends on data collected in November.”

Speaking of the vacancies at the GN divisions, Mr. Siriwardhane says, “Normally, when there is a vacancy, the Divisional Secretariat must appoint somebody to cover up the duty.”

Regarding the printing of voter registration application forms, Mr. Siriwardhane askeded that the Kilinochchi elections office be contacted.

The Department of Elections has set up a ‘temporary election office’in Kilinochchi, but CaFFE claims the office is open only 2-3 days a week.