Sri Lanka: ICJ commissioners assess elections in Sri Lanka

The ICJ expresses its appreciation to the Commissioner of Elections of Sri Lanka for the invitation extended to it to send observers to the recently concluded parliamentary general elections.

The ICJ observers were its commissioners Justice Dorab Patel, former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Emeritus Chairman of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and former Chief Chairman of the Pakistan Elections Commission; and Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary and President of Lawasia.

They joined 42 international observers from 12 countries and their task was to assess and evaluate whether the elections had been free and fair. The ICJ Commissioners reported that they were “generally free and fair” except for the elections in the districts of Jaffna and Vanni.” The reason being that Jaffna and Vani, situated in the north of Sri Lanka, have been subjected to armed confrontation between the Sri Lanka security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and, consequently, the government controls only 20% of the land in Jaffna. The observers reported that in both districts people had been subjected to extensive intimidation by an armed political group who also presented candidates for the election.

Elections throughout the 22 Electoral Districts of the country including Jaffna and Vanni proceeded on 16 August 1994. The observers stated that “the elections in those two districts were not only not free and unfair,” but that “the genuineness of the same elections is questionable.” They added, “We express our concern over the impact of the outcome of the elections in those districts on the outcome of the overall results of the General Elections.” The ICJ Commissioners nevertheless concluded that “otherwise the election had been conducted with the highest democratic standards in difficult circumstances” and expressed their great admiration to the electorate of Sri Lanka who turned out in large numbers.

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