COLOMBO: The Commonwealth will send election observers for the forthcoming Presidential polls in Sri Lanka, because the Lankan Commissioner of Elections “is not fully independent,” the visiting Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma told the media here on Wednesday.
Sharma said that he had met President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as members of the opposition in Colombo and civil society leaders, Governor Chandrasiri and Chief Minister Wigneswaran in the civil war-affected, Tamil-majority Northern Province. Sharma said that he noticed significant development work in the Northern Province but some concerns do remain.
Among these, he mentioned the recently imposed curbs on foreign passport holders wanting to visit the province. They have to take the written permission of the Defence Ministry to visit the province after satisfactorily explaining the purpose of the visit in the application. This measure has stymied travel plans of thousands of Lankan Tamil expatriates, who go to the Northern Province to visit their ancestral homes, or worship at their ancestral temples.
He said it is important to take steps to empower the people of the Northern Province and leaders they elect. Among other concerns he wanted to be addressed are; monitoring of the movement of people of the province and those who come to visit them for lawful purposes; and the continued role of the Lankan military in civilian life.
Sharma said he had briefed President Rajapaksa on the developments in the Tamil-majority region in light of the targets set by Commonwealth last year.