Presidential Election 2010: Media Communiqué No. 1

2 January, 2010 Colombo Sri Lanka CMEV is deeply concerned by the escalation of violence and the violation of election laws.

Profile of Violence
Since the gazette notification for the Presidential Election issued on 23rd November 2009 up to 01st January 2010, CMEV has recorded a confirmed cumulative total of 103 incidents of election related violence. According to CMEV reports, 44 incidents have been categorized as Major out of which 16 incidents are of Assault, 13 are of Threat and Intimidation, 8 of Grievous Hurt, 5 incidents of Hurt and 2 cases of the Misuse of State Resources. The total number of incidents involving the use of firearms is 16. In addition, 59 incidents have been categorized as Minor.

Out of 44 Major incidents, 29 incidents have been reported against the ruling UPFA – this being the highest number reported against any one party. Of the total figure of 103 incidents, the UNP had been accused as the perpetrator in 5 incidents and the JVP in 3.

Incidents of violence are increasingly being reported from the North Western, North Central and Southern provinces. Sixty (60) incidents out of a total of 103 incidents have been reported from these three provinces.

CMEV reiterates its concerns regarding the violations of election laws mainly by the ruling alliance, with illegal posters and cut-outs in public places in all of the main towns and cities and inside the premises of Government Offices. We urge the Election Commissioner to direct the Police as well as heads of government offices to act on his directives and ensure the proper implementation of election laws without any bias. In this context, we underscore the key responsibility of the Police to take immediate and strong action against political parties that violate election laws.

CMEV notes that the Election Commissioner has not yet taken steps appoint a Competent Authority as provided for in the Seventeenth Amendment in respect of certain named state media institutions. The Commissioner has identified an individual to monitor media bias but has not appointed anyone as a Competent Authority vested with the powers that appointment entails. CMEV strongly urges the Election Commissioner to immediately appoint a Competent Authority.

CMEV draws particular attention to the powers vested in the Election Commissioner by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution and in judgements of the Supreme Court.  We are of the firm belief that the fullest use of these powers is the best available means for the protection of the integrity of the electoral process and urges the Commissioner to act accordingly.  The public enumeration of these powers alone is no substitute for the effective exercise and implementation of them in this election in which issues of constitutionality, respect for the Rule of Law and democratic governance are being especially highlighted as being under challenge. In this context we welcome the action taken by the Commissioner in halting the transfer of Superintendent of Police J.R. Jayawardane to Killinochchi from Ampara, a course of action strongly urged by CMEV in communication with the Commissioner.

CMEV notes with concern the upward trend in election related violence and calls upon all concerned especially the Election Commissioner and his officials, the Police and political parties to take all necessary steps to deter such violence and to deal with those who are responsible for it. We call on all presidential candidates to reiterate their commitment to eradicate political violence and malpractice in word and in deed. CMEV’s experience with multiple elections confirms that the areas of violence on Election Day tend to coincide with the areas which experienced election related violence during the campaign.

For the full press release and a sampling of incidents of violence recorded by CMEV as of 2nd January 2010, please download the PDF here.

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