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Paul East to observe Sri Lankan elections

Paul East to observe Sri Lankan elections

Former Cabinet Minister Paul East has been selected to take part in a Commonwealth mission to observe the up-coming general elections in Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced today.

Mr East, New Zealand's High Commissioner to London and Nigeria from 1999 to 2002, is one of eight members of the Observer Mission that will spend the next nine days in Sri Lanka. The mission was invited by Sri Lanka's Commissioner of Elections, and has the support of the country's main political parties.

The elections, to be held on April 2, were called after a major rift developed late last year between Sri Lanka's President and Prime Minister, who are from opposing political parties.

“Paul East joins a distinguished list of New Zealanders who have joined Commonwealth observer groups for elections in countries as far apart as Guyana, Zimbabwe, Cambodia and Pakistan,” Mr Goff said.

"New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Commonwealth’s monitoring work to ensure fair and free elections, and I am pleased that Mr East has been invited to participate in the Sri Lanka mission.

"With peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers currently in limbo, the international community is anxious to see the elections pass smoothly so that political stability can be restored and the peace process resumed.

"The suspension of fighting has provided a significant peace dividend for all Sri Lankan people, and resulted in a major recovery in economic and social conditions. With goodwill on both sides there is a prospect for a peace agreement that will end a civil war which has cost 64,000 lives and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Mr Goff said New Zealand had attended an international donors' conference on Sri Lanka in Tokyo last June, where it pledged $1.5 million over the next three years to assist reconstruction efforts related to the peace process.

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