SLMC calls for urgent electoral reforms
[TamilNet, Saturday, 30 January 1999, 11:01 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a partner in the ruling coalition, has called upon the leaders of all political parties to give the highest priority to the implementation of electoral reforms within a system of proportional representation.
The Muslim Congress stressed that 'saving the democratic process' has become a priority on the nation's political agenda since the North West Provincial Council elections on 25 January 1999.
The following is the full text of the statement signed by the SLMC's General Secretary, Rauff Hakeem MP.
"The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is distressed by the large number of incidents of violence which took place in the Puttalam and Kurunagala districts on Monday, when the people of Wayamba (Northwestern Provincial Council elections) went to polls.
The Commissioner of Elections has reported that he was satisfied that vote rigging and other election malpractices have taken place in 221 polling booths which account for nearly 20% of the 1160 polling booths in the two districts.
A large number of other incidents of election related violence have later been reported to the Police.
The SLMC is concerned that irrespective of who or which party committed the acts of violence, the credibility of the elections has become a serious public issue.
We, however, appreciate the fact that the President herself had taken timely note of the incidents of violence on the day of the election itself and had called for an annulment of the polls in the affected areas of the two districts.
It is, however, imperative that in keeping with the President's declared commitment to democracy and free and fair elections, she should initiate impartial investigations into the reported incidents of violence, threats and intimidation which in the public perception had marred the Wayamba elections.
It is equally important that all those responsible for committing the offences and rigging should be dealt with according to law.
SLMC is perturbed by the fact that those who violated election laws and resorted to thuggery and rigging have mainly targetted the areas of Catholic and Muslim minority communities.
The SLMC is also of the view that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the Commissioner of Elections is given the fullest co-operation and assistance to ensure a free and fair poll.
Past acts of violence under previous governments are no excuse for continued violence.
It is now time for political parties to address the increasing tendency by the politicians to interfere with the democratic elections process.
In our view the present election laws -
particularly the system of casting preferential votes - have also contributed to the election violence and are causing conflicts among members of the same party."