CSD says biggest foreign earner SL Migrant Labour should enjoy voting right

In a letter despatched to the Election Commissioner who accepted nominations from 22 candidates, while rejecting one, on 17 December 2009, the Centre for Social Democracy has requested the EC to allow all Sri Lankan migrant labour working in the Mid East, Singapore, Cyprus, S.Korea and other countries to exercise their fundamental right of using the vote at the forthcoming presidential elections on 26 January 2010.

The migrant labour remittances earn 35.9% of the foreign earnings for Sri Lanka, the letter says.

The letter also says, according to licensed foreign employment agency sources, there are 600,000 SL house maids serving in the Middle East in any given moment.

The complete text of the letter is below.

17 December, 2009.

The Election Commissioner,

Election Secretariat,

Rajagiriya.

Regarding SL migrant labour vote at presidential elections – 2010

We as the Centre for Social Democracy (CSD) take note of the fact that no mention is made of the migrant labour force who have left the country on temporary employment, when talking of voting eligibility for the presidential polls scheduled for 2010 January, for which you accepted nominations today.

The CSD is aware of the fact that the Election Secretariat had not taken steps even in previous elections for these migrant employees to enjoy their fundamental right of using their vote.

That apart, the CSD is also aware the Sri Lanka Burueau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) which is legally mandated to look after the legitimate rights and welfare of these migrant labour, does not intervene in any way to ensure the right of these migrant labour, to vote at elections.

According to the official data provided in 2008 by the SLBFE, around 1.7 million had left for migrant employment and are serving primaraly in countries and regions like the Middle East, Singapore, Cyprus and South Korea. According to licensed foreign employment agency sources, there are 600,000 SL house maids serving in the Middle East in any given moment.

According to the SLBFE, this migrant labour force has earned for this country, US $  2,873.8 million in foreign exchange, as per last year. This is a large share of 35.9 % of our total foreign earnings. They are today, the most important economic factor in our economic life, without question.

Yet, they have not been allowed the fundamental right of using their vote in deciding the political leadership of this country and its future.

This the CSD notes, is a grave injustice. More because even those who are posted for foreign service on political prefernces, do enjoy the right to vote at elections.

We as the CSD also believe, allowing such a large segment of the vote to go unaccounted for, has a strong bearing on the final outcome of elections. In the last presidential elections held in 2005 November, President Rajapaksa managed only a 180,786 vote majority. This is only about one fifth of the house maids serving in the Middle East only. Therefore, migrant labour could also have a changing impact on the final outcome of an election and its politics.

Taking all of the above facts into consideration, the CSD therefore wishes to stress the need to provide these migrant labout their fundamental right of using their vote at the forthcoming presidential election in 2010 January.

We the CSD accordingly believe, the election secretariat would take necessary steps in ensuring this right of migrant employees.

Sgd / Kusal Perera                              Sgd / Mahinda Ratnayake

On behalf of

Centre for Social Democracy

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