Migrant Votes

Oct 18, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan migrant workers who account for as much as 12 percent of voters are still denied the right to vote although they constitute the island’s second biggest foreign exchange earner. Commissioner of elections Dayananda Dissanayake told LBO migrant workers remain without the ability to vote because successive governments remained complacent about the issue of migrant worker rights.

The absence of pressure from any group to fight for migrant voting rights has delayed implementation of laws giving them the vote, he said.

During previous national elections in Sri Lanka, none of the migrants were able to exercise the right to vote while being abroad, said David Soysa, director of Migrant Services Centre.

“In an all inclusive democracy, denial of voting facilities is a denial of the fundamental right of any citizen,”

Migrant workers constitute 12 percent of the registered voters and 10 percent of the national work force in Sri Lanka.

Worker remittances increased by 21.2 percent to 2,326 million dollars in 2006, the Central Bank said.

Migrant worker remittances are the second largest foreign exchange earner after apparel exports and help shore up the island’s