Caritas diocesan directors and accountants from Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mannar, Trincomalee and Vanni attended the  ‘District Coordinators’ Meeting’ organized by PAFFERL which was held on 1st November 2019 at Renuka City Hotel, Colombo 3.  The objective of the meeting was to explain the duties and responsibilities to officials who will be involved in Presidential election monitoring. Caritas officials who attended the meeting will be engaged in election monitoring in their respective nominated electorates.

In a Presidential election, the entire country becomes an electorate and a voter is entitled to one vote. To be declared elected, a candidate needs to secure more than 50 percent of the total number of valid votes cast. The term of office of a President is five years and can be re-elected to office for one more term.

At the outset, the need to maintain strict neutrality irrespective of one’s personal political leanings and act in a manner enables one’s neutrality to be evident. The main aspects of the election monitoring process that were discussed at the meeting included the following:

  • The District Coordination Office and the responsibilities of the District Coordinator (DC)
  • The factors that need to be taken into account when selecting Election Monitors
  • Monitoring guidelines for postal, election center and mobile monitoring and monitoring procedures.

Some of the main aspects discussed under each section were as follows;

The District Coordination Office and the responsibilities of the District Coordinator (DC)

  • The DC is responsible for the selection of postal, election centre and mobile election monitors as well as ensuring the trainings are completed within the agreed dates.
  • Give awareness to Divisional level coordinators about district election monitoring activities and monitoring their activities
  • Maintain good contacts with the District Secretary, Deputy and Assistant Election Commissioners as well important police officials
  • Maintain good contacts with ruling and opposition party leaders to get information if necessary

Factors that need to be taken into account when selecting election monitors

  • They should be over 18 years old and should have voted at least once.
  • Selecting persons with previous experience as it will be easier to monitor activities
  • The selected persons should respect democracy and have an interest in community activities
  • All monitors should undergo the training provided by PAFRELL
  • Make sure that both male and female youth are selected for election monitoring work.

Monitoring guidelines for postal, election centre and mobile monitoring

For eg. – Observers should not have any contact or links with political parties or independent groups either directory or discretely and be persons who are independent and acceptable to the community

Monitoring procedures

For eg. In the event of a cancellation of voting at a particular centre, the report of the election observer will also be important. So there is a need to ensure that the observer was at the polling centre until the end of the voting period and get this officially certified by the senior election official at the centre.

There may be locations where violence could break out and which need more attention. Only people who have the capacity and could act with responsibility should be involved in monitoring activities.