The British Government says its interest is for Sri Lanka to be stable, united and prosperous.
Laura Davies, the Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, in a blog posting said that last week’s general election was very tight.
“It was also remarkably peaceful. From the President and Elections Commissioner down, all involved have commented positively on the conduct of the election, many describing it as Sri Lanka’s best in decades. It’s not for the UK to support one party over another. Our interest is for Sri Lanka to be stable, united and prosperous. Elections that reflect the will of the people – and campaigns that do not seek to distort that will – are an essential element of this. That’s why we were major contributors to the full range of election observation missions and organisations around Sri Lanka,” she said.
She said in the January Presidential election and this month’s general election, UK supported both major and niche domestic observation efforts, to the tune of almost 750 million Sri Lankan rupees (around £350,000). This UK Government funding enabled additional and more informed observation, and better and more widespread voter education.
“For example, one of our partners trained 14,000 local observers who were then deployed across every single electoral district on election day. Another provided over 200 educational workshops for voters in all nine provinces. Some of these workshops focused specifically on enhancing women’s participation and engagement in politics. Yet another partner analysed media airtime, and a fourth distributed materials encouraging people to use their vote. Colleagues and I saw the importance of this work on our own pre-election trips around Sri Lanka. And we were at the core of the Commonwealth and EU election observation missions too. Two British Members of the European Parliament participated in the EU mission, and former British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Linda Duffield came with the advance Commonwealth team. Four members of High Commission staff, two Brits and two Sri Lankans, were also accredited as part of the EU mission,” she said.
She also said that no election is perfect and all the observer groups have reported electoral law violations.
“There were isolated instances of violence. The observers have also reflected on practical issues, such as voter privacy and polling station accessibility, particularly for the elderly or disabled. These recommendations are important food for debate for the new Parliament. Overall, however, levels of violence, misuse of resources and cut-outs, and intimidation fell dramatically. The role played by the Elections Commissioner and the police has been widely, rightly, praised. Everyone from polling booth officials to individuals voters too should be proud. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that there is a new normal for elections here, and the fact that so many young people were involved in both campaigning and observing is a positive sign for the future,” she added.