ECONOMYNEXT – Several thousand Sri Lankans who will be in quarantine for COVID 19 on Election Day will not be able to vote as previously promised because arrangements for them to cast their ballots have been cancelled.
The Armed Forces had collected the data about the addresses and eligibility to vote from those in the quarantine centres several weeks ago with a view to facilitating voting.
The National Elections Commission had also planned to set up mobile polling booths at these locations so that the inmates could vote.
Arrangements were also being made for Election Officials to visit those in self-quarantine or home quarantine to give them the opportunity to vote.
However, EconomyNext reliably learns that the Attorney General’s Department had advised the Elections Commission against conducting the mobile polling as is there is no provision in the current laws governing the conduct of elections which allowed the Commission to do so.
The laws allow advance polling only as Postal Votes and not under any other circumstance.
This argument does not impress Pushpakumar Buddhadasa, an Engineer who is quarantined at a centre in the Colombo District and is livid that he is not able to vote.
“This is my Fundamental Right, and that has been denied,” he told EconomyNext.
Buddhadasa said that he was close to being released at the end of the mandatory 14-day period when one of the inmates on his floor of the quarantine centre had tested positive for the COVID 19 virus and as a result quarantine for all the people on that floor had been extended.
“I had timed my visit to Sri Lanka so that I could vote,” the professional who lives in Europe said. “I am totally stressed out and my blood sugar and my blood pressure has risen,” he said.
The Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu told EconomyNext that the authorities do not have the right to deny these people the right to vote.
“They are in the quarantine centres because of Health Guidelines, and because of this they have been disenfranchised and have the right to go to court,” he added.
Manjula Gajanayake of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said Sri Lanka had missed a chance to show that it is a country that values the right to vote.
“We have missed a golden opportunity to show the world how much we value the right to vote,” the election observer told EconomyNext.
As of 6 am today there are 2,294 people in 33 quarantine centres run by the security forces as well as around a thousand people who are in hotels which have been turned into quarantine centres and those who are in home-quarantine. (Colombo, August 3, 2020)