Caritas Colombo – Seth Sarana with the assistance of Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC organized an election awareness programme on the new system of local government elections on 22nd January 2017 at the Joesph Vaz Centre in Borella. A large number of community members, CBO leaders, priests, religious, staff of Seth Sarana and SEDEC staff participated in the awareness programme.

Election Commission Chairman Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya who has gained a growing reputation as an independent government official and a person behind the propagation of good governance practices especially under his office chaired the main speech.

Reminiscing his past involvement with Christian and Catholic priests and Bishops in spearheading the strengthening of democratic activities some time back, he said the Catholic Church is not a new place for him. He said that it was only a Pope who has said that it is a crime if we do not vote to remind everyone the gravity of using ones’ franchise in voting for the peoples’ representatives, be it at national or local government elections.

Sharing his thoughts, Mr. Deshapriya said that by our birth we get two things that we cannot say ‘NO’ to. One is death and the other is the franchise which every adult is entitled to. He asked the audience to take the election seriously, reminding the audience that elections define everything around in our lives whether we like it or not. He said that starting from the tax systems, local village & urban level infrastructure developments are decided by the councilors that we elect by casting our votes. Therefore he said that we need to make use of the new system to find trustworthy, honest and dedicated councilors to every local government body in every electorate irrespective of the party & political affiliations that the Sri Lankan voter is used to historically. In addition, making references to all the major religions in Sri Lanka, he reiterated the importance of working as a community and said that only when people come together they realize the power in unity rather than working individually to achieve the common human goals. He is hopeful and optimistic that the present political reforms would create a new atmosphere especially for the future generations where each individual is treated equally.

Mr. Nimal Punchihewa, Legal Director to the Election Commission and Mr. Saman Sri Rathnayake, Additional Commissioner were the other resource persons who spoke to the audience about the new election system and demonstrated how under the new system the number of councilors would be elected to each electorate stating that the new system has 100% proportional representation.

The seminar was organized under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Lawrence Ramanayaka., Director, Caritas Colombo – Seth Sarana.