The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is deeply concerned by the numerous attempts to disrupt the long overdue local elections in Sri Lanka. The local elections were supposed to be held on 20 March 2022 and have been postponed for almost a year by the Minister of Provincial Council and Local Government. The elections are currently scheduled for 9 March 2023.
However, we regret the recent developments that aimed at disrupting the elections, including through legal means and the instruction to stop accepting deposits from candidates issued by a ministry secretary to returning officers. Furthermore, the Department of Government Printing refused to submit the printed postal ballot papers to the Election Commission (EC) until the printing cost is paid, resulted in the indefinite postponement of the postal voting which was originally slated for 22-24 February.
We are also alarmed by reports of death threats against three EC commissioners, who were reportedly pressured to resign from their positions. We call on the Sri Lankan government to investigate these reports and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
The right to free and fair elections is a fundamental human right, and any attempts to interfere with this right must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government must ensure that the elections are conducted on the scheduled dates without any further delay, and that the electoral process is transparent and fair.
We stand with the people of Sri Lanka in their pursuit of a free and fair electoral process, and urge the Sri Lankan government to take all necessary steps to ensure that the will of the people is reflected through genuine periodic elections in accordance with Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).