NIC issue: Consensus closer
By Chandani Kirinde
The United National Party and the Jathika Hela Urumaya will provide the Government with conditional support to pass the Elections (Special provisions) Bill which would make identity cards compulsory for voters at all future elections.

The UNP will support a CWC amendment moved by MP V. Puthrasigamani to ensure that the Elections Department certifies that all administrative arrangements relating to the issue of identity cards have been made, to its satisfaction, and to ensure that persons entitled to vote are not precluded from exercising their franchise.

The amendment will also call for the Registrar of Persons to provide a certification that he has received reports in respect of all electoral districts that all citizens have received their identity cards.

JHU National Organiser Ven. Kolonnawe Sumangala Thera told The Sunday Times that his party would vote in favour of the bill when it comes up for a vote in Parliament this week, only if the government agreed to its proposal to the appointment of a monitoring committee .

The CWC amendment also calls for a representative of each party in Parliament forming into a monitoring committee to supervise the implementation of this law.

Only if the UPFA Government accepts these proposals will it be able to muster a majority for the passage of the bill. As many as 3.8 million Sri Lankan citizens, over a third of the country's voting population, do not have National Identity Cards.

The bulk of the persons without NICs are in the southern parts of the country, with Colombo (200,000), Gampaha (300,000), Anuradhapura (200,000 ), Kurunegala (280,000) and most of the other districts at least 100,000 each.

The North and East have a separate problem. Almost 400,000 Jaffna voters have no NICs. The situation in the plantations is not as bad as earlier thought, Nuwara-Eliya having 160,000 without NICs, though several new citizens have not obtained citizenship papers to register for NICs.

The adjourned debate on the bill will continue in Parliament on Wednesday while the voting has been fixed for Thursday. The Government has agreed to an earlier opposition demand to introduce an amendment to the Bill to make provision for its implementation to become effective, one year after it is passed coupled with a guarantee that the vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million eligible voters without NICs would be issued with cards within this period.

The Supreme Court has found the bill consistent with the Constitution after it was referred to the Court by the President as an urgent bill to ascertain its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, TNA leader R. Sambanthan claimed that nearly half of the voters without NICs were from the north and east and the plantation sector and the Government must guarantee that this bill would not prejudice any section of the people when it becomes effective.

The TNA has also called for an amendment to the bill on the lines of the Puthrasigamani proposal.

Leaders without an identity!
At least two party leaders have no National Identity Cards, and will not be allowed to vote at a future election if the Government's bill to enforce the production of NICs for voting purposes comes into force with immediate effect, The Sunday Times was told.

The two are Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and JHU leader Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thera.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said that his identity card was no longer valid, and needed to be renewed, while Ven. Medananda Thera said that the JVP took his identity card away during the 1987-89 reign of terror.

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