In September 2013, the marginalized northern population of Sri Lanka will experience a historic event—the opportunity to vote in the first Northern Provincial Council Elections. But a significant hurdle exists. An estimated 85,000 registered voters lack a National Identity Card (NIC), which must be presented at the polling station on Election Day.
Many lost their NICs while displaced during the country's 30-year civil war. Others never had one because they were living under a rebel administration.
Lack of identification has ramifications beyond voting. NICs are also required to access basic government services and to travel freely throughout the country.
To help the residents of these communities, USAID is partnering with the Center for Human Rights to conduct a series of free mobile NIC clinics in Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mannar and Mullaitivu districts, July 9-Aug. 31, 2013. To date, more than 21,000 ID card applications have been received, which include nearly a quarter of all northern voters who are registered but without valid ID and more than 10,000 cards that have already been issued and delivered. The remainder of the cards are expected to be issued and delivered by Election Day, September 21.
The clinics are accessible to all and are able to process NIC requests in about two weeks rather than the usual three months, ensuring the cards are received prior to Election Day. Another benefit of the clinics is that individuals can present unconventional documents to prove identity during the application process. This is an important work-around since many clinic participants lost other forms of identity documents during the conflict.
“I have spent most of my life in war suffering from lots of displacement and resettlement …. Getting an ID after 55 years of living, now I feel I’m a citizen of this country,” proclaimed Attputharajah Tharmarani at a NIC mobile clinic in Jaffna.
Last updated: January 27, 2014