Flagrant violation of polls laws, elections already not on a level field

Image courtesy The Economist

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is currently in the process of recruiting field staff for the 160 polling divisions and field co-ordinators for the 25 administrative districts in the island.

Asked whether there have been any violence so far with respect to the presidential election,Manjula Gajanayake , national co-ordinator, CMEV said: “On the day the common opposition candidate was presented to the people, several celebrating opposition parties have been threatened. In one instance, Chamila Ranasinghe, a former Pradeshiya Sabha member of the UNP and current supporter was physically assaulted at Maggona Junction.”

“However, there is a new form of violence,” he said. “The election cut outs of the incumbent president have appeared all over the island almost overnight. However, no authority has been sought for these from any of the local authorities – Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and the Pradeshiya Sabhas”.

Explaining further he said “There is a bi-law that all advertisements have to be authorized by the local government body and there is a complete violation of this law by the incumbent president and party in power.

Asked whether taxes associated with such advertising has been collected he said, “forget taxes, not even authority has been sought”.

The Sunday Island called the Mayor of Colombo, MJM Muzammil whose number appeared to be roaming out of the country yesterday. Other officials were not available for comment.

In the case of the Municipal Councils, the Mayor and in the case of the Urban Councils or Pradeshiya Sabhas, the Chairmen must grant the necessary permissions that also include the collection of the associated taxes that have to be paid.

One promoter in Colombo who did not wish to be named said “look at all the pennants, and advertisements in Colombo, they carry a number like file number. That is the reference to the authority and taxes being paid. All corporates advertising outdoors have to pay for every pennant, billboard and message out there and corporates in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) category have to adhere to these by-laws when there is such flagrant violations on the part of government. And the cost is per day, so the moment that you don’t pay the local authority brings it down. ”

Another marketing manager of a multi-national company said “Advertising costs are very high and taxes on outdoor advertising is a serious component”.

The CMEV had been formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Against Political Violence as an independent and non-partisan organization to monitor the incidence of election related violence. Currently CMEV is made up of CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre.

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Courtesy The Island