North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 23rd August 2008 2300 hrs- Media Communiqué No. 7

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

23rd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 7

CMEV deployed stationary observers in 420 polling stations, 11 mobile teams and 28 field monitors in the two provinces. During the course of the day 976 polling stations were visited of the 1768 polling stations in both provinces.

CMEV notes that apart from a few serious incidents and in comparison with previous provincial elections, Polling Day of the elections to the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils was relatively incident free.  The expectations of violence that were based on the incidence of violence in the last three days of the campaign in particular, were fortunately not met.  Accordingly, CMEV acknowledges the positive impact of the announcement by the Election Commissioner that he would order a re-poll in areas where violence and malpractice were confirmed to have occurred, as well as his decision to strengthen law enforcement in the areas that recorded high levels of violence throughout the campaign. Likewise, CMEV also acknowledges the positive impact of the actions of the police in those areas where its presence and commitment was reinforced.

As emphasized in its earlier communiqué of today (Communique 6, August 23, 2008), the effective disenfranchisement of voters on account of them not having the required identity documentation, is a cause for serious concern.  No citizen should be deprived of the fundamental right to exercise franchise. Be it because of a failure of communication or administrative delay, the resulting, effective disenfranchisement of voters has deprived citizens of the right to participate in the basic process of choice and change in a functioning democracy.  This needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.  CMEV strongly urges the Elections Commissioner to initiate an independent inquiry into what transpired and to hold to account officials found to be responsible for this.  We also strongly urge the authorities to take similar action in respect of local officials who are found to be similarly responsible.

CMEV has supported the mandatory use of the National Identity Card (NIC) for voter identification, but reiterated that its use for this purpose should not result in the deprivation of fundamental rights and to the disadvantage of citizens.  Consequently, we repeat our call for the expediting of the issue of NICs.  The prospect of further elections in the near future, underscores the importance and urgency of this.

In this context, CMEV also repeats it call for the full implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of independent commissions for elections and the police – an issue which the constituent organizations of CMEV have, and continue to lobby and litigate on.

In the course of these elections, CMEV also monitored the media coverage of the election campaign.  We found that in the case of both the print and electronic media, state controlled media organs were comprehensively biased in favour of the ruling coalition.  The private print media organs were also found to exhibit partisan bias.  CMEV calls on the Commissioner, to issue guidelines to the media, even during provincial elections and reminds the state media in particular, of a primary obligation to serve the public interest. We call upon all media organs to observe internationally recognized guidelines for reporting during elections.

An illustrative sample of the incidents of violence and malpractice reported by CMEV monitors is provided below.

Assault of a polling agent and parliamentarian
At least four JVP supporters were assaulted near the Galthamburawa Junior School (Polling Station 92) in the Polonnaruwa Electorate.  One of the assaulted included JVP candidate Chandraratna Kumara.  JVP parliamentarian S.K Subasinghe who rushed to the scene was instructed to report to the nearest police station. While Mr. Subasinghe was enroute to the station, he was pulled over by a gang of UPFA supporters and attacked. Mr. Subasinghe and three of his supporters sustained injuries. They were all admitted to the hospital with injuries.  The JVP has alleged that the attackers were supporters of Minister Maithripala Sirisena’s brother, Chaminda Sirisena, a UPFA provincial council candidate for the North Central Province. This incident, which occurred at around 4.45 p.m, was reported to CMEV by the JVP.

Two children hurt in attack on UNP candidate
A vehicle belonging to UNP provincial candidate G.P.K Kumara Nelson was stoned near the Bandiweva Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 71), Jayanthipura, Polonnaruwa Electorate, Polomaruwa District. Two children who were by the road side were injured during the course of the attack and were admitted to the Polonnaruwa hospital. They alleged that UPFA persons had stoned the vehicle.

Election monitor assaulted in Kegalle
A monitor connected to the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) was assaulted by supporters of UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate Mahipala Herath near the Walpola Junior School (No. 15) in Rambukkana. The mob had used a T- 56 rifle to carry out their attack. The victim, Sampath Kumara, was admitted to the Kegalle Hospital.

Threat and intimidation of candidates, polling agents and supporters
Prabath Weerawansa, son of the UPFA former minister G. Weerawansa, had threatened to kill National People’s Party Polling Agent Senaka Chandana at the Polling Station at the Olambawa Community Hall (Polling Station 13), in the Kekirawa Electorate, in the Anuradhapura District. At the same Polling Station, Prabath Weerawansa and his supporters had also damaged the vehicle of Priyaranjana Rathnayake, a National People’s Party candidate.

In Wiyeyaramaya Polling Station (Polling Station 11) in Kalaweva Electorate, Anuradhapura District, a UPFA Rajangana Pradeshiya Sabha representative D.M. Wimarshana Prabath Vithana threatened a UNP supporter named P. Sampath Rajindra.

Voter intimidation
Two separate incidents of voter intimidation were reported from Wee-Oya Junior School (Polling Station 29) and Malalpola Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 18 ) both in the Yatiyantota Electorate, Kegalle District. In both incidents unidentified persons who drove in Defender Jeeps had shot into the air. CMEV was informed by the Senior Presiding Officers in both stations that they had not witnessed the incidents but had heard gunshots. CMEV was informed that other Polling Officers had witnessed the incidents. It was also reported that police officers were witnesses to the incident but had not taken any action.

A JVP supporter reported to the CMEV an incident at the Aralaganwila Ruhunagama Veeralanda Junior School (Polling Station 7), in Polonnaruwa Electorate, where UPFA supporters threatened JVP supporters.

In R/Udugala Vidyalaya (Polling Station 17) and R/Pimbura Vidyalaya (Polling Station 19) in the Kalawana Electorate in the Ratnapura District, UPFA candidate Lambert Bandara and his supporters threatened and intimidated voters.

Voter Impersonation
It was reported that 12 persons attempted to cast their votes at 9.40 a.m. at the A/Heambawewa Junior Secondary School (Polling Station 29), Anurdhapura West Electorate, Anurdhapura District using false identification.

At Sumanagala Vidyalaya (Polling Station 28 ) in the Anuradhapure West Electorate, a farmer named R.M Ratnayake was not allowed to vote as the SPO informed him that his vote had already been cast.  He was told that his vote had been cast via a postal vote by an army officer of the same name. The application to file this vote was requested by Maj. Gen. M.J.K Jayapriya, commander of the Kavachikkuda army camp.

Voter transportation in Mihintale

UNP provincial council candidate H.M Prasanna Sugath Herath transported voters to the A/Ganthiriyagama Maha Vidyalaya (Polling station 42), in the Mihintale Electorate, Anurdhapura District. He used a white Tipper vehicle bearing license plate number 48-5961 for this purpose.

Damage to property

Supporters of Chief Minister candidate of UPFA in Sabaragamuwa Province, Maheepala Herath who had arrived in seven vehicles and attacked a cab bearing the number plate 56-2218 belonging to the JVP in front of the in Pinnawala Central College (Polling Station  27), Rambukkana, Kegalle District.

Inability to vote due to lack of proper documentation

CMEV has reported that a number of voters both in the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces were deprived of their right to vote because of the lack of appropriate identity documents. CMEV spoke to the National Organiser of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), Mr. Yogarajan who stated that out of approximate 95,000 Upcountry Tamils who are registered voters in the Sabaragamuwa Province 10% were unable to cast their vote because of this. CMEV has also received reports from its monitors and political parties of other incidents of this nature, suggesting that the overall figure in both provinces of those who were effectively disenfranchised could be high. As at the close of polls, CMEV had received reports of over 570 persons being so deprived in the areas of Dedigama, Deraniyagala, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kolonna, Mawanella, Rambukkana, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota in the Sabaragamuwa Province and Anuradhapura West, Horowapathana, Kekirawa, Medawachchiya, Polonnaruwa in the NCP.

According to a notice issued by the Election Commissioner on 16th July 2008, eight forms of identification were listed as accepted documentation for voting. A clear procedure was set out in the above notice which provides alternatives for those who lack any of the eight forms of identification.

Some of the incidents encountered were:

Sabaragamuwa

The majority of incidents reported to CMEV regarding the lack of proper documentation were made in the Kegalle District. In the Kegalle Electorate at the Hettimulla Bandaranaike M.V, 40 persons were not allowed to cast their votes as the SPO did not recognize the identification presented by the voters, which was authorized by the Grama Sevaka. A similar incident has been reported in the Ambuwangala Junior School (Polling Station  44) Rambukkana Electorate, Kegalle District.  10 persons were denied permission to vote in this instance. As the SPO was unable to recognize their IDs as valid, 15 persons were turned away from the Polling Station at the Hinguralakanda Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 36) in the Deraniyagala Electorate, Kegalle District. At Deewala Maha Vidyalala, Hall number 1 and 2 (Polling Stations 6 and 7) in the Kegalle Electorate, 36 voters were turned away due to ID issues. In the Kegalle District, in the Mawanella Electorate, 20 voters were turned away from Udamakadawara Junior School Hall Number 1 (Polling Station 20) as the SPO was unable to verify their identification. In two different polling stations in the Ruvanwella Electorate, Kegalle District voters were turned away. Also in the Ruvanwella Electorate, the Anguruwella Pre School (Polling Station 33) 3 persons were turned back at 7 45 am and at the Gonagala North Kanishta Vidyalala (Polling Station 24), 5 persons were turned back at 8 am.

CMEV received reports of differing standards being used in neighbouring polling stations. For example, there were reports of persons being able to vote without the requisite documentation in the Garagoda Muslim Vidayalaya (No 10) in Yatiyantota Electorate, Kegalle District. In contrast, persons were not allowed to vote in the nearby Panawatta Tamil Vidyalaya (No12) due to the lack of proper documentation.

CMEV monitors also received complaints from the Rathnapura Districts. In the Eheliyagoda Electorate of Ratnapura District at the Minnawa Sri Muchalindaramaya Polling Station (Polling Station 07), a large number of persons were turned away from the Polling booth due to the lack of National Identity cards.

North Central Province

There were a few incidents of voters not being allowed to vote in the North Central Province, particularly from Anurdhapura District. In the Anuradhapura Morahewa Vidyalaya (Polling Station 10), Horowpothana Electorate, Anuradhapura District, between 7:00am to 1:20 pm, CMEV monitor reported that about 100 voters were sent back by the SPO because they did not have a proper ID card and thus were unable to vote. In the Adampane Sudharshana Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 04), Anurahapura West Electorate, four voters had turned up without any of the eight forms of identification, but with the Grama Seveka certification. The Senior Presiding Office did not, however permit them to vote. Five persons have turned up without Identity Cards but with GS certification to vote at the Maha Bulankualama Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Station 54), Anuradhapura West Electorate, Anuradhapura District but the Senior Presiding Officer has not permitted them to vote. Eight persons were not allowed to cast their votes because the Senior Presiding Officer has refused them permission to vote because the IDs that they presented were a form of identification authorized only by the Grama Sevaka. This incident occurred in at the Anuradhapura Maha Bulankulama Vidyalaya (Polling Station 54), Anurdhapura West at 9.10am. Approximately 25 voters were sent back between 7:00am and 1:50pm,by the Senior Polling Officer at the Anuradhapura Moragahadigiliya Viduhala (Polling Station 07), Horowpothana Electorate, Anuradhapura District reportedly due lack of identity cards.

In Yodhaela Maha Vidayalaya (Polling Station 50) in Minneriya, Polonnaruwa District the JVP complained that persons were able to vote with a document attested by the GS. At the Yodhaela Maha Vidyalaya Polling station, Mineriya Electorate, Polannaruwa District, voters were allowed to use a letter issued by the GS as formal identification. However, at polling stations in some of the other polling stations, the Senior Polling Officers refused to recognize such a letter.

Continuation of campaigning on Election Day

In the Ruwanwella Electorate, Kegalle District, Kananthota Suleimaniya Muslim Vidyalaya (No.38)at 9 .05 am, supporters of Nihal Farook (UNP) had been seen  near the polling station  telling voters to vote for Nihal Farook.

A large numbers of leaflets and posters of UPFA Chief Minister Candidate Mahipala Herath were distributed at Polling stations Kalugala Rural Development Society Hall (Polling Station 1), Puwakdeniya Junior School (Polling Station 3), Beragala Junior School (Polling Station 22) and Paragammana Dharamapala Junior School (Polling Station 26) in the Kegalle Electorate, Kegalle District.

Supporters of UPFA Chief Minister candidate Bertie Premalal Dissanayake and UPFA candidate Udaya Nalin Wijeyaratne were seen distributing small cards bearing their names and candidate numbers to voters. This incident occurred around 10am within 200 metres of the Kidavarampulam Vidyalaya (Polling Station 50), in Madawachchiya in the Anuradhapura District.

The leaflets bearing the details of candidate no. 22, Dushmantha Mithrapala of UPFA, have been spotted near the polling station in Deraniyagala Junior School (Polling Station 22) in Deraniyagala Electorate, Kegalle District.

Distribution of election related materials

In the Pollonaruwa District, at the Sarvodaya District Center (Polling Station 83), in New Town Pollonnaruwa, UPFA candidate Peshala Jayaratne’s supporters distributed election related materials using a trishaw bearing number plate QC- 8870.

Restriction of access to the Polling Station

In the Dereniyagla Electorate of Kegelle District, Sabaragamuwa Province, near the Basnagala Polling Station (Polling Station 04), obstruction of road access to the polling station had been engineered by cutting and placing of two trees on the road.

Monitor obstructed from entry

A CMEV stationary monitor was denied entry into a polling station by the SPO at A/Ganthiriyagama Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 42), Mihinthale Electorate, Anuradhapura District. After speaking with the police, and a further delay of 15 minutes, the monitor was allowed inside.

CMEV monitor reprimanded by SPO

In the Anuradhapura East Electorate, at the D.S. Senanayake School (Polling Station 39), the CMEV stationary monitor was reprimanded by the SPO. The polling officer had also refused to sign the CMEV personnel’s monitoring sheet.

UPFA complains of bias

CMEV has received a complaint from the UPFA that at the Kadawathmaduwa Dharmapala Junior School (Polling Station 63), Polonnaruwa Electorate, that the SPO and his staff were biased toward the UNP supporters.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)