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Sri Lanka Presidential Election 2015 Arrival Statement

4 January 2015
Statement by: by Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group

Following an invitation from the Commissioner of Elections, the Commonwealth Secretary-General has constituted an Observer Group to the 8 January 2015 Presidential Election in Sri Lanka. It is my honour and privilege to have been asked to lead the Group, and to be here in the country for these elections.

Our nine-member Observer Group has been drawn from across the Commonwealth, and includes former politicians and members of parliament, former members of election commissions and representatives of civil society and the media. The Group is supported by a staff team of five, led by Ms Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Rule of Law Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Sri Lanka has among the oldest democratic traditions in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth recently observed the 2010 Presidential election and the 2013 Northern Provincial Council elections.

Our task is to consider all the factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole, and to assess whether the election is conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Sri Lanka has committed itself, with reference to national election-related legislation as well as Commonwealth and other international commitments.

We will consider, among other things, whether conditions exist for credible elections, including a fair election environment; whether public media has been impartial; the transparency of the entire process; whether voters are free to express their will; and whether the counting and results process is transparent.

In conducting our duties and undertaking our assessment, we will be neutral, impartial, objective and independent.  The Group has no executive role; its function is not to supervise but to observe the process as a whole and to form a judgement accordingly.

We are here in our individual capacities as eminent and experienced Commonwealth citizens. The assessment by the Group will be its own and not that of any member government. Our intent is to offer constructive support to help strengthen the democratic process in the country. In so doing, the Group will make recommendations to the authorities concerned on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist the holding of such elections in the future.

We have already met with the Commissioner of Elections, national observer groups, and representatives of the two main candidates. Over the coming days we will be meeting Commonwealth High Commissioners, representatives of the police as well as civil society groups. We will then deploy across the country to observe the conclusion of the campaign and thereafter the voting, counting and results process.

We will issue an Interim Statement after the election and the Group will submit a final report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will forward it to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Commissioner of Elections, and leaders of political parties, and thereafter to all Commonwealth Governments

On behalf of the Commonwealth Observer Group I wish the people of Sri Lanka well as they embark upon this election. We encourage all Sri Lankans to do their part to ensure that a peaceful and credible process takes place on 8 January.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Note to Editors:

The nine Commonwealth Observers will be in Sri Lanka from 2 to 14 January 2015.

The full composition of the Commonwealth Observer Group is:

Dr Bharrat Jagdeo (Chair)
Former President

Ms Maria Chin Abdullah
The Coalition of Free and Fair Elections

Dr Cam Calder
Former Member of Parliament
New Zealand

Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira 
Former Minister and Member of Parliament

Mr Eldred De Klerk
Rule of law and elections security expert
South Africa

Dr Sally Kosgei
Former Minister and Member of Parliament

Ms Sa-adatu Maida
Election Commissioner

Mr Brij Bihari Tandon
Former Election Commissioner of India

Ms Lainy Malkani
Media Expert
United Kingdom

Read press release announcing Commonwealth observation of Sri Lanka election