Polls monitors demand that passports be produced at polling booths
Move to impersonate 100,000 foreign workers suspected
The Sunday Times Reports
In a bid to prevent the alleged impersonation of more than 100,000 Sri Lankans living in Kuwait, independent monitors yesterday demanded that the passport of those who have come from abroad be produced as proof before they are allowed to vote.
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) spokesperson Keerthi Tennakoon said they had informed Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya about covert moves to impersonate Sri Lankans working overseas. He alleged that the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment had provided the names of more than 100,000 expatriate workers to a particular presidential candidate.
“We are treating this matter seriously. CaFFE and other polls monitors together with representatives from opposition parties met Mr. Deshapriya to discuss the matter at length and urged his office to take appropriate action,” Mr. Tennakoon said. During the discussion held on Tuesday, they urged the Elections Commissioner to order that the passport be made compulsory for any expatriate intending to vote at the January 8 presidential election.
Present at the meeting were representatives from the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL). However Additional Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed said any Sri Lankan who lived abroad and returned to the country could vote by proving his or her identity.
“The electoral list will indicate if the individual is in a foreign country by noting ‘A’ in front of his or her name. They can vote by producing their National Identity Card (NIC). However, if any polling agent objects or the polling officer is suspicious, the voter will have to produce his or her passport and may have to give a statement proving his or her identity to the polling officer,” he said.
Meanwhile Faizer Maickeen, President of the Association for Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA), alleged that a senior Sri Lankan Mission official had told the media that more than 100,000 Sri Lankans working there would come to Sri Lanka to vote at the election.
It was reported that arrangements had been made with employers to provide leave for Sri Lankan workers while other logical assistance would be provided by the Sri Lankan government, Mr. Maickeen said. But Christopher Nelson, President of the Sri Lanka Kuwait Manpower Association (SLKMA) told the Sunday Times from Kuwait City that it would never be possible to send back such a large number of Sri Lankans in a short time.
“There is no truth in these claims. At present there are some 150,000 Sri Lankans employed in Kuwait and nearly 85 per cent are women working as house maids. If this is to take place some 80 per cent of the Sri Lankan workforce in Kuwait will collapse and the Kuwaiti sponsors who have spent millions of dollars for their workers will not let it happen,” Mr. Nelson added.
A senior SLFEB official denied that a list containing names of Sri Lankan expatriate workers based in Kuwait had been handed over to a particular Presidential candidate. There is no truth in these allegations and the Bureau is in no way supporting plans to bring down workers ahead of the January 8 election, SLFEB Additional General Manager Mangala Randeniya said.
“If workers have completed their work contracts in this particular country around the same time of the polls then there is nothing to stop them coming here and casting their vote,” he said.