Is Sri Lanka’s Election Commission “compromised” after visit by US envoy?


An official tweet was released on 28 May 2024 by the outgoing US envoy highlighting a meeting held with members of Sri Lanka’s election commission on the “importance of voting in free & fair elections”. Expectedly there is no response from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister who we presume is in charge of all the diplomats & diplomatic protocols that all in the diplomatic community must abide by as per Geneva Diplomatic Protocols. Is the Foreign Minister tasked to protect the interests of Sri Lanka or the interest of other countries?


Needless to say, this meeting automatically takes our memories back to the time Britain’s High Commissioner David Gladstone was unceremoniously declared persona non grata for interfering in local elections & packed off back to the UK.

The reason – 10 May 1991 Local Government Elections

The incident – lodging a complaint at the Police Station about SLFP supporters being denied entering polling booth by UNP thugs at the Dickwella polling centre.

Gladstone was given 10 days to leave Sri Lanka.

Ironically, Gladstone’s next appointment ended up Ukraine!

Ironically days later 21 May 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Increasingly, we see diplomats not only visiting everywhere & anywhere they please without informing Sri Lanka’s foreign office & having a member of the foreign office accompany them as was a practice in the past, envoys are crossing the line of diplomacy. Their “interference” has become a common occurrence. It may come to a point where people in positions begin to function according to the dictates of the diplomats than the politicians.

While, we can fault the diplomats and highlight their lack of diplomacy, the bigger fault lies in our own people who fail to see how such meetings can compromise their own position and the Independent role expected of them.

There is little point brandishing a signboard “INDEPENDENT” if they do not function as an independent body. There is little point bragging about being “independent” if they do not act independent.

If judges do not attend or mix & mingle with ordinary citizens in view of any conflict of interest, can they wine & dine with diplomats & hold regular meetings with them. Do their funding & training programs warrant loosening of that distance that should be kept?

Exactly how “independent” are elections in the US for the US envoy to be concerned about free & fair elections in Sri Lanka?

Elections were held for women in 1931 when US disenfranchised black people from voting. American blacks got to vote only in 1965 (black Americans have been voting only for 59 years!).

While 20,000 Sri Lankan prisoners do not get voting rights because of a lethargy in arranging voting for them, the US by law denies 5.1million felons voting rights.

Our concern regarding the meeting with the election commission follows a timeline of US meddling in elections of other countries.

US interference in foreign elections

2015 Presidential Elections – Sri Lanka

Regime change in 2015 was jointly planned by the Indian intelligence & US to oust Mahinda Rajapakse’s govt. It was this operation that presented a common candidate & a pro-US alliance that became the common opposition. Maithripala Sirisena was selected as the common candidate & won enabling a string of pro-US/Indian decisions thereafter.

India appears to be copying everything US is doing as interference in UK’s 2019 election by India was highlighted by Times of India with BJP supporters campaigning for the Conservative Party via whatsapp messages across the country.

2002 Parliamentary Elections – Bolivia

US is said to have financed eradication of cocoa farms & warned voters not to vote for Evo Morales. USAID created a “political party reform project” with motive to create pro-US political parties camouflaged as “pro-democracy”.

1996 Presidential Election – Russia

US assistance for Boris Yeltsin’s election campaign is no secret. US had sent a team of campaign experts & were given an unlimited budget. US used their influence in IMF to grant Russia a $10.2billion loan to keep the Russian pro-US govt afloat. Though Yeltsin’s inner circle misused the funds, IMF turned a blind eye. Many view the election as being rigged to Yeltsins advantage.


1996 Parliamentary Elections – Mongolia

NED (National Endowment for Democracy) is accused of helping unite several political parties, intellectuals, businessmen, students & other activists into a “Democratic Union Coalition” & given training in grassroot campaigning & membership recruiting. NED had also helped distribute 350,000 copies of a manifesto calling for private property rights, free press & foreign investment. The NED enemy was Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.


1992 Parliamentary Elections – Albania

USAID, NDI, IRI provided anti-socialist political groups – funding, training & media support & US embassy publicly supported Albania’s Democratic Party. According to Los Angeles Times, US also provided advisors & vehicles for their campaign & threatened to withhold aid if Socialist Party of Albania won the elections.

1990 Parliamentary Elections – Czechoslovakia

New York Times reveals NED $400,000 funding for pro-US political parties to buy computers, fax machines copiers for their campaign.

1986 Parliamentary Elections – Costa Rica

IRI (International Republican Institute) supported the Social Christian Unity Party giving grants of $75,000, $100,000 & $145,000 for elections in 1986, 1987 & 1988 through the Association for the Defense of Liberty & Democracy in Costa Rica.

1984 Presidential Elections – El Salvador

Washington Post reveals US diplomatic pressure, media support & covert funding to the campaign of Jose Duarte.


1984 Parliamentary Elections – Grenada

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward says CIA spent $675,000 on education & campaigns after the Grenada invasion in 1983 & used opinion polls to swing voters towarsd a pro-US candidate.


1984, 1989 Parliamentary Elections – Panama

As per Manuel Noriega’s trial, CIA & drug cartels funded the election campaign of Nicolas Vallarino.

CIA is also accused of covertly campaigning to oust General Noriega from office. Radio & tv transmitters were given to opposition groups while US slapped sanctions on Panama after US failed coup in 1988.


1984 & 1990 Parliamentary Elections – Nicaragua

US is accused of funding & bribing anti-Sandinista opposition leaders to boycott the 1984 elections.

Funds also flowed to anti-Sandinista opposition groups to oust him from power in 1990.


1983 Parliamentary Elections – Italy

Journalist Bob Woodward says CIA requested Saudi to spend $2m to assist a secret operation to prevent victory of the Italian Communist Party in 1983 elections.


1982 Parliamentary Elections – Mauritius

CIA is said to have given financial support to Ramgoolam’s election campaign to defeat Anerood Jugnath thinking he would close Muauritian ports to US Navy as well as challenge Diego Garcia.


1980 Presidential Election – Iran

US is accused of covertly supporting campaign of Ahmad Madani who later fled to US.


Japanese elections in 1952, 1855, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1967, 1969, 1972 & 1980

CIA is accused of interfering in Japan’s 1st elections, withholding details of the new US-Japan security treaty from public, funding the Liberal Party, later Liberal Democratic Party, CIA is accused of offering payments to Japan Socialist Party members to weaken potential anti-US campaigns, sending US advisors as “US-based businessmen”.


1955, 1958, 1987 Parliamentary Elections – Laos

US State Dept documents reveal US funded the Royal Lao Army,  the Govt & provided food aid to villages to discourage them supporting communism.

Former CIA agent & US diplomat James Liley says “we pumped a relatively large amount of money to politicians who would listen to our advice” – CIA-friendly politicians won 54 out of 57 seats.


1971 Presidential Election – Vietnam

US is accused of running a number of covert operations to get Nguven Thieu elected.


1970 Presidential Elections – Chile

As per Church Committee, CIA supported the kidnapping of the Chilean Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Rene Schneider to prevent him confirming Allende as President. Kidnapping attempt failed & Schneider was shot & died 3 days later. US took pains to undermine Allendes presidency which paved way for his overthrow by coup.


1966 Parliamentary Elections – Bolivia

CIA had covertly funded groups that supported Gen. Barrientos for elections. Thereafter Che Guevara was killed in 1967.

1966 Parliamentary Elections – Costa Rica

US supported Costa Rica’s National Liberation Party


1966 Parliamentary Elections – Dominican Republic

US State Dept Office of Historian documents reveal US support for Joaquin Balaguer – assistance cover advice, media, information.


1964 Parliamentary Elections – Bolivia

CIA had covertly financed media, political groups, trade unions, student groups, youth groups to ensure a pro-US government came to power. $1.150000 had been allocated over 3 years for this operation. US is said to have covertly funded Gen. Barrientos in the military coup of 1964.

1964 Presidential Elections – Chile

US govt is said to have given $2.6m to candidate Montalva who opposed Salvador Allende & to character assassinate Allende. The Church Committee in 1975 exposed US involvement in Chile’s elections.

1964 Parliamentary Elections – Somalia

US is accused of covertly influencing elections & ensure officials were pro-West.


1962 Parliamentary Elections – Brazil

Time Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes speaks of a plan by US President JFK & US envoy in Brazil Lincoln Gordon to spend $8m to swing the election & prepare for a military coup against President Goulart. The funding went to Brazilians who opposed Goulart. Goulart was deposed in 1964 by military coup which ruled Brazil till 1985.

1962 Parliamentary Elections – Peru

US State Dept historians office reveals CIA funded the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance in 1962 & even supported the labor movement against President Alvarado.


1960 Congo

Following the victory of Patrice Lumumba, he was assassinated in a US-led covert operation in January 1961.


1959 Parliamentary Elections – Nepal

CIA is accused of covertly assisting Koirala & Nepali Congress to win 1959 elections.


1958 Parliamentary Elections – Guatemala

CIA is accused of covertly aiding campaign of Jose Salazar to the tune of $97,000 to oust govt of Miguel Fuentes.


1955 Presidential Election- Brazil

US began “educating” Brazilians against “communism” & gave grants to parties that agreed to be pro-US

1955 Parliamentary Elections – Indonesia

CIA is accused of covertly giving $1m to Muslim political parties to cut support for Sukarno.

1953 Parliamentary Elections – Philippines

US & CIA are accused of influencing the 1953 elections with candidates competing for US support. CIA agent Edward Lansdale is credited with running the campaign of Ramon Magsaysay to election victory.


1952 Parliamentary Elections – Iran

US declassified documents in 2017 reveal US strategy to undermine Mohammad Mossadegh with CIA spending lots of money to get their 18 favorite candidates elected.

1948 Parliamentary Elections – Italy

The US in alliance with the Roman Catholic Church is accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Christian Democracy Party & other parties to support the Popular Democratic Front to win.

Its upto the Sri Lankans to ask themselves whether US is also rolling out the same campaigns in Sri Lanka?

  • How far has USAID, NED, NRI, IRI penetrated Sri Lankan society to influence their thinking & involved in grassroot campaigning?
  • Was IMF used in 2022?
  • Are US advisors, vehicles, equipment, social media training, media training being used?
  • What are the campaigns that have been launched so far? How is US influencing surveys & opinion polls?
  • Are their “US advisors” posing as US investors/businessmen?
  • Who are the politicians listening to “US advice” & are “favorites” of the US/India
  • Who are the politicians, political parties, student groups, youth movements, media, intellectuals, activists, trade unions, businessmen taking “advice” from US/India?
  • Who are tasked & paid to character assassinate? Who else are getting covertly paid?
  • The US didn’t need to kidnap the army general as in Chile, but a US-trained one was imported & made army commander after regime change in 2015!

In looking at the timeline of US interference in numerous countries, their judiciary has remained somewhat out of any conflict of interest. However, can we say the same about Sri Lanka? The BASL scandal, the manner USAID is funding the legal system’s “administration & digitalization” provides a clue to the answer.

In such a scenario, what can we deduce from the US envoys meeting with the supposed to be “independent” election commission. Do commissions wish to be independent so they can be not answerable or questioned for such actions that can easily undermine the sovereignty of the nation as can be seen by the examples highlighted from open source material.


Shenali D Waduge



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