Commission must be empowered to decide on polls calendar - PAFFREL | Daily News

Commission must be empowered to decide on polls calendar - PAFFREL

The Independent Election Commission should be empowered to decide on the election calendar, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said.

Responding to a question by a journalist at a press conference to wind up the two-day ‘Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum’ in Colombo yesterday, Hettiarachchi said the Election Commission must be strengthened to decide on the time frame of elections, without passing the responsibility to those who are in power.

“When we look back at the past 10 years, it is obvious that all the successive rulers conducted elections when the atmosphere was most advantageous to them.

The former Government was in the habit of holding the elections under several stages while this Government seems to be delaying the elections. Consolidating power is their priority. This is the bitter truth.

That is why we stress that the Election Commission must be given the power to decide on the election dates,” he commented.

The members who attended the Forum adopted “the Colombo Pledge” at its end to promote and defend electoral democracy in Asia. About 300 participants from 45 countries took part in the gathering that provided a platform to share experiences and best practices relating to election transparency and integrity. The event was organized by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

Hettiarachchi, who is also the General Secretary of the ANFREL, said holding timely elections to a specific election calendar is a key point included in the ‘Colombo Pledge’.

Responding to another question, he said the Election Commission has already paid its attention towards introducing an advanced voting system to assure the voting rights of all citizens, especially the disabled people and those who obtain residential treatment in hospitals.

He further pointed out even though all the stakeholders agree in principle over giving voting rights to Sri Lankan expat workers, numbering to over two million, there are practical problems in going ahead with that proposal.

“Many of our workers are in Middle Eastern countries and it is questionable as to how many of them can come to the Sri Lankan Embassy to exercise their franchise. Besides, how can we ensure the freedom of the voter? We have to gradually develop a system where we can address these issues and allow expat workers to vote freely,” he commented.

ANFREL Executive Director Chandanie Watawala and Election Commissioners Prof. Rathnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekara also spoke.

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