‘Delivering the truth’ A polls watch with a difference
The National Polls Observations Centre (NPOC) is a polls watch with a
difference. At a time when the credibility of such organizations are
open to question due to foreign funding and hidden agenda, the NPOC was
started by a group of professionals with their own funding without
depending on foreign grants to ensure full transparency and
independence. Nadira Gunatilleke interviews NPOC media spokesman Sagara
Kariyawasam, Attorney-at-Law, for the Daily News.
What is the mission, vision and the main objective of the NPOC?
The NPOC was established in July 2008, along with the accepting of
nominations for the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council
What made us to establish NPOC is the unjustifiable criticism pointed
at the Government after the Eastern Provincial Council Election.
Initially there were about 50 members from various professions behind
the establishment of the NPOC where a majority of them were from the
Our members have various political ideologies and their political
views differ. But all of us have one objective. That is delivering the
truth to the world and protecting the image of motherland. Educating the
public is another intention of ours.
The NPOC was established with the intention of giving accurate
information to the general public relating to the conduct of elections
and various ways in which the parties involved in the election process
violated the election laws and regulations and involved and on election
violence in general.
As an independent monitoring team, NPOC was more concerned about
protecting the image of the country since previous two Provincial
Council elections were held at a juncture where the Government of Sri
Lanka was involved in a serious humanitarian operation while protecting
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka amidst the
attempts by various interested international powers and groups to hamper
that process under the guise of protection of human rights and
Describe the structure and operations of the NPOC.
The main operation centre of the NPOC is located in Colombo. But it
covers five districts and a large number of electorates.
The NPOC deploys minimum ten lawyers in each electorate. All of them
work voluntarily and they are based in electorates.
In addition to them, there are independent Sri Lankan citizens who
have come forward voluntarily to assist the NPOC. Each electorate has 20
such monitors. Recently the JPs’ Association of Sri Lanka joined us as
monitors after watching our service over media. There is a tremendous
public support towards the NPOC from the beginning.
What is the difference between the NPOC and other election monitoring
So far The People’s Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has
acted independently and monitored elections in an unbiased manner even
they receive foreign funds. But all the other election monitoring bodies
operating in Sri Lanka have ulterior motives.
All of them depend on foreign funds and those funds do not come
without a reason. There are agendas set for them by the funding agents.
Some agendas are not that healthy for Sri Lanka. That is how the
American Ambassador was able to walk right into the Elections Department
once in the past.
But the NPOC is an entirely independent body and it is funded by its
own members and majority of them are Lawyers, doctors and other
professionals. Voluntary businessmen who love the country are also
funding the NPOC.
Therefore we have not been given an agenda by any outside element. We
are independent and we do not accept orders from foreign countries and
do not depend on foreign funds.
We have not experienced any financial problems so far. We are here to
tell the truth to the public. To do so we go into details of every and
each complaint. According to what we found out during previous two
Provincial Council Elections, 80 per cent of the complaints were on
quite minor incidents.
Only 12 to 14 per cent of them were in medium level and very few
serious complaints were there. But at the end of the day, election
monitoring bodies showed a very gloomy picture to the public and to the
world through the media.
Because of the active presence of the NPOC now the other election
monitoring bodies are compelled to come out with an accurate picture and
they did so (to a certain extent)during the previous two Provincial
According to your observations what is the latest situation in the
North western and Central Provinces?
Up to January 25 the NPOC has only received 34 complaints and 31 of
them are minor ones while the rest of them, three complaints, are
medium. No serious complaints have been received so far. In Puttalam and
Nuwara Eliya districts most of the minor conflicts were among the
members and supporters of the same political party. Conflicts between
rival political parties were very rare.
The NPOC wishes to make an appeal to the voters in the two Provinces.
That is to cast their valuable vote. Voting is the only way of
showing the world how much democracy we Sri Lankans enjoy and how
independent we are to use our democratic rights. But there are some
elements which try to prevent voters from casting their votes and
practising their democratic rights independently. We have to defeat the
effort of these elements.
Election violence was born when the late President J R Jayawardena
gave a two-week holiday for the Police Department just after the
elections. But election violence has been fading away during the past
few years. This is one of the very good trends that we have observed.
Many funds are required to do politics within the existing set up and
it is one of the main reasons that prevent professionals from taking to