Oct 30, Colombo: Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has issued the report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Sri Lanka's Northern Provincial Council Election, held on 21 September 2013.
The Secretary-General, describing the election as an historic election for Sri Lanka, and one which the Commonwealth was pleased to have been invited to observe said the Commonwealth observers had found the conduct of election day itself to be impressive.
"Voters turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise, and electoral officials conducted polling with dedication and diligence," he said.
"The post-results environment was also peaceful and for this, we commend the leadership of participating political parties," Sharma said in a statement released by the Commonwealth Secretariat on Tuesday.
However, the Secretary-General drew attention to the Commonwealth Observer Mission's concerns about the pre-electoral environment.
"I support the Observer Mission's view that an election is a process and not an event. The pre-electoral environment is vital to its integrity and credibility," Sharma said.
Sharma also noted the Observer Mission's call for the establishment of an independent electoral commission, which is a widely valued Commonwealth good practice.
"We have an ongoing programme of work with Sri Lanka. We stand ready to assist Sri Lanka in strengthening its electoral framework as well," the Secretary-General said.
"I echo the sentiments of the Commonwealth Observer Mission in hoping that this historic election marks a step forward in the harmonious development of the Northern Province and of Sri Lanka as a whole," Sharma remarked.
The four-member Commonwealth Observation Mission team chaired by former Vice President of Kenya Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka was in the country from 14 to 28 September.
Former Electoral Officer for Victoria, Australia Ms. Jenni McMullan, Former Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh Dr Shamsul Huda and Secretary, Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities Saint Lucia Ms. Examin Philbert were the other three members.
The Secretary-General constituted the mission at the invitation of Sri Lanka's Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya.
The Observer Mission met with a range of stakeholders and on election day its members were present in the five districts of the Northern Province.
The team's mandate required its members to observe and consider all aspects of the electoral process and to assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections reflected in national election-related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth as well as other international commitments.