NEC probing possible voter disenfranchisement | Sunday Observer

NEC probing possible voter disenfranchisement

National Election Commission (NEC) has commenced a probe into the possible disenfranchisement of several Colombo residents, a trend that was also observed during previous presidential elections. The issue went viral on social media platforms last week when a husband-wife duo residing in Sri Maha Vihara Road in Kalubowila, Dehiwala flagged a gross move made by the Grama Niladhari in their division to scrap four members from their six-member family from the voter’s list for the upcoming presidential election. The claim resonated with several others.

Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Coordinator Manjula Gajanayake said most of these incidents were a result of voters’ ‘unawareness’ of the registration process.

Voters for this year’s election were registered from June to July last year. The NEC announced a grace period of two months for unregistered voters to enter their names to the list.

“What we observe is that these voters have failed to do so and their names were not included in the voting list,” CMEV’s Gajanayake said.

However, he said, the complaint by the Dehiwala residents was a genuine case and the CMEV has deployed their officers to probe the matter.Shewantha Rodrigo of Dehiwala in a social media post complained that his wife, mother, brother-in-law and himself were deleted from the records. Only his son and daughter were registered.

When Rodrigo visited the Election Office on Thursday (31) he found that the computer records had all six members registered for 2017 and 2019, while only two were registered for 2018, despite handing carefully filled forms to the Grama Niladhari in order to obtain their polling cards. The axed members were all above the age of 50.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer Rodrigo said he was astounded when the officers at the Election Office presented to him records they claimed were maintained by the Grama Niladhari where she had ‘meticulously’ cut off their names. However, when Rodrigo’s wife Savithri Rodrigo questioned the same Grama Niladhari on a before date she denied knowing that anything was amiss.

To make matters worse, Rodrigo said he saw several other names in the documents, given to him at the Election Office, were stroked out as theirs. He also said that, during his stay, the officers received several telephone calls by voters who raised similar issues.

Unfortunately, Rodrigo’s story is just the tip of the iceberg. European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) that monitored Sri Lanka’s 2005 Presidential Election also identified similar ‘controversial’ issues.

In its report it stated that it was “alleged by many individuals, NGOs and the UNP that a number of Colombo residents were not on the voter list, despite having always been on the list.

As a matter of fact, the number of registered voters in Colombo in 2005 had increased by only 786 voters more than in 2004.” It further added that there was a possible disfranchisement of many voters in Colombo.

One of the claims during the 2005 election was that there was a blunt attempt to stop members of certain minority populations from voting.

Rodrigo and his three family members are denied their voting rights for the November 16 elections. If they are to fight for their votes, they were advised by the election officials to make a complaint to the Speaker of Parliament, which he had through a third party.

“I am not interested in playing politics or going behind someone’s job. But changes needs to be done to the existing system so that this will not happen again,” he said.

He added that his friends approached him with the same complaint but they were ‘petrified’ to speak about it in public.