Sri Lanka to invite foreign poll monitors

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka is set to invite international monitors to observe December’s parliamentary poll amid fears of violence and electoral malpractice, the top election official said Tuesday.

Elections Chief Dayananda Dissanayake said he had informally asked the United Nations, the European Union, a group of Asian poll monitors and the Indian Elections Commission to observe the scheduled December 5 elections.

"So far I have not received a positive reply, but I hope to make a formal invitation after consulting all political parties next month," Dissanayake said.

He said he was personally not in favour of foreign poll observers as they had little or no understanding of the local situation and often based their reports on observations at a few polling booths.

"The problem is that our political parties want foreign witnesses to their victory," Dissanayake said. "Personally, I am not in favour of it but have invited foreign observers because political parties want it."

Foreign observers reported last year that the October parliamentary election which saw President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s party narrowly returned to power was a fair reflection of the people’s will despite violence and rigging.

In a report which was widely criticised by local observers, foreign monitors said violence that killed some 65 people in the run-up to last year’s elections and wide-spread vote rigging did not affect the final outcome of the elections.