Majority Of Displaced Have No Vote
- Over 200,000 Displaced
- Only 20-25,000 Registration Forms Received
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Thousands of displaced persons in the north will be deprived of exercising their franchise at the January 26, 2010 presidential election, given the small number of registration forms received by the Elections Department and the Department’s decision not to extend the December 24 deadline for the displaced persons to register to vote.
The Election Commissioner’s Department has received only about 20,000 to 25,000 registration forms from about 200,000 displaced persons in the north by Thursday (24).
Assistant Elections Commissioner, W.P. Sumanasiri said that although 20,000 to 25,000 persons was a small number in comparison to the total number of displaced persons in the north, it was not an indication that those who have not sent in applications would not be able to cast their votes.
He explained that the relevant regulation was introduced by the government when displaced persons who wished to cast their votes were away from their hometown, and asked to register with the Department during election time.
“This time around, the ground situation has changed and all the displaced people may have not sent registration forms because they had no fear of returning to their hometowns to cast their votes,” Sumanasiri said. He added that the December 24 deadline could not be extended, as the Department had already given a period of one month for the displaced persons to register.
Assistant Elections Commissioner for Vavuniya, A.S. Karunanidhi said that by Wednesday (23), his office had received about 12,000 applications.
When asked for the number of eligible voters currently living in IDP camps in Vavuniya, he said, “I’m not aware of the exact number, but there are about 80,000 IDPs still in camps.”
Meanwhile, Media Spokesperson for Campaign for Free and Fair elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon said the current situation would prevent most of the displaced persons in the North from exercising their franchise at the January 26 elections.
CAFFE insists that the candidates and political parties must take decisive steps to ensure that these IDPs in the north who have after 30 years received the opportunity to vote shall somehow be secured the right of franchise.
Tennekoon said it was regrettable that no political party has taken any action to protect the voting rights of the IDPs in the north.
“Not only the Elections Commissioner and the govt. officials, but the political parties too have a responsibility to safeguard the voting rights of the IDPs in Jaffna and the Wanni Districts. These parties who are representatives of the people should take crucial measures to provide the IDPs with the right to vote. Yet, a majority of the candidates who are contesting the presidential election are indifferent to this need,” he stated.
The Tamil speaking people in the north were prevented from casting their votes during the previous 2005 presidential election, following an order by LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to boycott the elections.
Calling for a presidential election two years prior to the due date, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he needed to receive a mandate from the people in the north following the end of the war.