IMPHAL, April 5: Manipur’s Chief Electoral Officer PC Lawmkunga has returned to Imphal today after his stint as an International Observer to the recently held by-elections in Myanmar.
Meeting members of the media at his office this evening CEO Lawmkunga said, ‘Elections in Myanmar is like a paradise as compared to India particularly Manipur elections.’
It may be recalled here that, Lawmkunga along with his Assam counterpart Maninder Singh was deputed by the Union Ministry of External Affairs as part of the team of International Observers. Myanmar government had sent invitations to 85 countries to send observers for the by-elections conducted on April 1.
Describing the Myanmar elections as totally peaceful CEO Lawmkunga said, ‘There was no sign of either police or army in and around the polling stations. Yet there were no disturbances.’
He said, ‘Myanmar government did not assign the places for us to visit. We selected the places we wanted to visit.’ The Indian team selected 18 polling stations in the Mandalay region.
Although the observers were not allowed inside the polling stations, they were able to observe the proceedings very clearly as polling were conducted in the open with a shamiana on top.
CEO Lawmkunga said, ‘No inedible ink was used to mark voters. The ballot boxes used in the voting were of the plastic shopping basket type which was covered with a pigeon-hole for casting of the ballot paper.’
‘The most interesting part was that counting was immediately done after the voting at the polling station itself by the polling officials in front of the polling agents of the candidates,’ Lawmkunga remarked. Polling began at 6 am and ended at 4 pm. Most of the polling station officers were women, he added.
The Myanmar by-elections were for 48 seats, but 3 seats in Kachin area were countermanded. The Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 out of the 45 seats for which elections were held.
Lawmkunga said, ’We talked to some of the voters through an interpreter assigned by the embassy. But there were no complaints. I feel the elections were free from malpractices and transparency was visible everywhere including that of plastic ballot boxes and immediate counting.’
‘This new government in Myanmar really means business and they are serious about ushering in democracy’, Lawmkunga added.
He further said, ‘Even Aung San Suu Kyi had virtually no complaints except for the inclusion of some people who were dead in the electoral rolls and of some intimidation though not serious. She made no negative comments when she met members of the press and the international observers at her lakeside home in Yangon.’
The electoral rolls for the by-elections were the same used in 2010 elections and naturally such instances would come up, Lawmkunga added.
When asked whether elections conducted in that manner in India or Manipur Lawmkunga said, ‘There has to be a conducive atmosphere for that. Here the situation is very different. In India particularly in Manipur, ECI’s first concern while conducting elections is about security arrangements.’
The Chief Electoral Officer said, ‘The people on the other side of the border are friendly, polite, kind helpful and peaceful.’
CEO Lawmkunga left Manipur on March 27 for Yangon via Kolkata and Bangkok. He returned to Imphal this evening. He is set to visit New Delhi very soon to file his report with the Election Commission of India and the ministry.