19 March 2010, Colombo, Sri Lanka: CMEV is deeply concerned by the misuse of state resources for campaigning purposes and the increased use of firearms.
As of 18th March 2010, CMEV has confirmed 115 incidents of election related violence including 75(65%) Major Incidents since the closure of nomination on 26th February. Out of the confirmed 75 major incidents 25(33%) are instances of the misuse of public property for electioneering. Incidents involving the use of fire arms have risen to 18 which constitute 25% of the Major Incidents.
The 75 confirmed Major Incidents included 06 incidents of Hurt, 03 instances of Grievous Hurt, 22 Assaults resulting in injuries, 14 instances of Threat & Intimidation, 25 instances of the Misuse of State Resources and 05 incidents of Arson.
Misuse of State Resources: CMEV has recorded 06 such incidents from the Kurunalgala District; in three instances the incumbent Minister of Nation Building and UPFA candidate Salinda Dissanyake(candidate no 17) and his supporters have been accused of misusing three double cabs(252-6010,WP HI 2766 and WP PB 2271)and a CDMA phone(0114945974) belonging to the respective ministry.
CMEV’s repeated attempts to contact Salinda Dissanayake were not successful.
A building constructed for the welfare of the Army soldiers in Galgamuwa is being used as a party office of UPFA candidate, Taranath Basnayake(candidate no 15)
CMEV contacted the Divisional Secretariat of Galgamuwa. An officer, who did not want to reveal his name, confirmed the incident and told CMEV that the building is now being administered by the Galgamuwa Village Development Society.
A building belonging to the Zonal Education Office of Nuwaraeliya is being used in the campaign of incumbent Minister of Livestock Development and UPFA candidate C.B.Ratnayake(candidate no 02).
CMEV contacted the Zonal Education Office of Nuwareliya on 18th March. An officer there told CMEV on the condition of anonymity, that a ministry sub office of Minister of Livestock Development, C.B.Ratnayake has been run in the old building of the department.
When CMEV contacted C.B.Ratnayake, he denied the allegation.
CMEV received reports regarding the misuse of a cab (WP JL 5264) belonging to a road construction project implemented by the Sabragamuwa Provincial Council. It has been used for the campaigning activities of UPFA candidate Kanaka Herath(candidate no 04).
CMEV contacted the office of the Chief Secretary of the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council. An officer of the Council told CMEV that the vehicle was given to the project office by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), that they have no information regarding the vehicle and that he was not aware of the incident.
CMEV contacted Kanaka Hereth on 18th March who categorically denied the allegation.
According to CMEV monitor a Mitsubishi Cab (52-2425) belonging to the Mahaweli Authority has been used to transport a cutout of incumbent minister of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services,Maithiripala Sirisena(candidate no 07), from Sevanapitiya to Welikanda on 18th March 2010.
Resident Project Manager of Mahaweli Authority, Polonnaruwa who did not mention his name admitted that the vehicle belongs to the authority and stated that he is not aware about the incident.
Increased intra -party violence: Another alarming trend in the lead up to the election is the struggle for preferential votes which leads to intra party clashes. Of the 91 complaints against the UPFA 23(25%) complaints have been made by party supporters. Five (05) instances of intra-party violence have been reported from the Southern Province. In Sabaragamuwa, firearms have been used in 05 out of 12 Major Incidents. CMEV has recorded 03 such incidents from the Eastern Province and 02 incidents each from the North Central and Western Provinces. CMEV also received reports of 01 incident each from the North Western and Central Provinces.
CMEV highlights below a recent incident of involving the use of firearms in the Kurunagala District.
On 17th March at around 10.30 pm, supporters of UPFA candidate R.D.Wimaladasa(candidate no 06) who arrived in a white Canter assaulted a group of supporters of UNP candidate Nilwala Wijesinghe(candidate no 11) when they were having dinner after a meeting held at Nilwala’s residence located in Ridigama. Five (05) UNP supporters sustained injuries due to the attack and were admitted to the Kurunegala General Hospital.
CMEV Field Monitor visited the hospital on 18th March and recorded statements from the victims. According Anuara Munasinghe, a UNP supporter, the perpetrators assaulted them with wooden batons and when the other UNP supporters attempted to stop the attack, the perpetrators had fired in the air. Reportedly a bystander also sustained minor injuries to his head due to the panic caused by gunshots.
According to CMEV Field Monitor, Ridhigama Police confirms the incident and is carrying out further investigation in this regard.
CMEV calls upon the leaders of all political parties, especially the ruling alliance against which the majority of allegations of election related violence have been made, to take immediate and effective steps to halt the violence perpetrated by their candidates and supporters which is a clear threat to the integrity of the electoral process and democracy in Sri Lanka.
CMEV’s experience with multiple elections is that violence perpetrated during the campaign impacts adversely on polling by setting a context for an ostensibly violence free election day in favour of those who have perpetrated violence with impunity during the campaign. It is therefore of the utmost importance for the integrity of the electoral process that violence perpetrated during the campaign period is deterred and the perpetrators of violence brought to account.
In this context, we reiterate the argument consistently advanced by CMEV regarding the urgency and pivotal importance of the full implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment. CMEV believes that the establishment of independent commissions for the Police, Public Service and Elections provided for by the Amendment, is absolutely necessary for protecting the integrity of the electoral process.
CMEV has commenced the monitoring of the Parliamentary Election and fielded 180 Monitors. CMEV will be deploying 4,500 Stationary Observers in polling stations and 50 Mobile Teams on Election Day.