The Sri Lankan army’s reported interference in the conduct of the Northern Provincial Council Elections has drawn some critical remarks from international monitors representing Commonwealth and Saarc nations — who were in Sri Lanka for the September 21 provincial elections.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission’s statement on Monday, released with its preliminary findings, said the role of the military in the electoral campaign was consistently described to the mission as a significant obstacle to a credible electoral process. It pointed to the “heavy presence and influence of the military, including persistent reports of overt military support for particular candidates, reported cases of the military actually campaigning for selected candidates, and military involvement in the intimidation of the electorate, party supporters and candidates”.

The team of monitors from Saarc nations too said it was dismayed at the reported role of the armed forces in the attack on the house of a candidate of the Tamil National Alliance contesting the elections, according to former Chief Election Commissioner of India N. Gopalaswami, who led the team. Mr. Gopalaswami, addressing a press conference here on Monday, however, commended the Sri Lankan Election Commission for strategically shuffling the ballots before the time of counting, and for providing transport to help voters residing in camps for internally displaced persons — a suggestion that Mr. Gopalaswami made to the Commission a few days before the elections. “The arrangements at the polling stations and counting centres were above board,” he observed.

The Commonwealth Mission too said that the administrative arrangements for voting and counting in the election were impressive.

Both teams have emphasised the need for more voter education. The Saarc monitors’ team would recommend to the Sri Lankan government the powers of its Election Commissioner be enhanced, Mr. Gopalaswami said