Sri Lankan expats in Oman hopeful of voting rights in home country
April 6, 2016 | 7:45 AM
by Rejimon K / [email protected]
New Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena gestures to supporters after speaking outside of the Buddhist Temple of Tooth in the central town of Kandy on January 11, 2015. Sri Lanka's new government on January 11 accused toppled strongman Mahinda Rajapakse of having tried to stage a coup to cling to power after losing last week's presidential election. AFP PHOTO/ Ishara S. KODIKARA

Muscat: Sri Lankans in Oman are optimistic about getting voting rights soon as the Sri Lankan parliament is set to pass a motion enabling voting rights for its citizens abroad on Wednesday.

“If the parliament passes the motion, then we would be happiest lot. Getting a say in our country’s politics is not a small thing. The demand for voting rights for migrant Lankan workers is a long standing one. Hope it becomes a reality this time,” Deepal Pallegangoda, country manager of Mihin Lanka in Muscat, said.

According to media reports, the possibility of enabling more than 1.5 million migrant Sri Lankan workers to vote at elections is to be examined by a Parliamentary Select Committee. A motion put forward by 23 parliamentarians was submitted last month and is supposed to be approved by parliament on Wednesday.

An official from the Sri Lankan embassy in Oman confirmed media reports, saying that they are waiting for updates from Lanka. According to the official, there are around 25,000 Lankans in Oman. Bandulla Perera, a Lankan expatriate in Oman, said it’s a good move on part of the government.

“Lankan migrants contribute around 60 per cent of foreign exchange revenue through remittances. When they play such an important role in the country’s economy, they deserve a say in their government forming too. Enabling voting rights is a welcome move,” Perera, who is an official at HSBC Oman for the last eight years, said.

The motion also states that Sri Lankans overseas have been deprived of the chance to vote until now though they make an invaluable contribution to the sustenance of the economy of Sri Lanka by earning foreign exchange.

It states that creating the necessary background for the migrant workers to engage in their employment with dignity is the responsibility of the government and hence a Parliamentary Select Committee should be appointed to look into the difficulties faced by Sri Lankans employed overseas and the possibility of providing them with the opportunity to exercise their franchise in elections and report to the parliament on the same with observations and recommendations.

All parties have agreed to pass the motion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the International Covenant on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their families (ICMW) have guaranteed the voting rights of migrant workers.

Currently, the Philippines’ government has given voting rights to its migrant workers while Indian government’s move to provide the same for its citizens abroad is under consideration.

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