Presidential Election 2015: Postal Voting Communiqué 01

23rd December 2014 Colombo, Sri Lanka – Postal voting for the Presidential Election scheduled for 8th January 2015 commenced this morning at 7.30 a.m. A total of 541,831 voters are eligible to cast postal votes on the 23rd, 24th, 26th and 30th of December 2014. According to media reports of the 626,953 applications received for postal voters, nearly 85,000 (14%) applications were rejected.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched his election manifesto today (23rd) and his speech was aired live by the Independent Television Network (ITN) and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting co-operation (SLBC) from 9.00 a.m. onwards. Whilst the airing of this election activity is a violation of the Election Commissioner’s directives on the use of state media and state resources, CMEV received several complaints of this speech being played loudly in government buildings which operate as polling stations for the postal vote.

CMEV received complaints that the telecast of the speech could be seen and /or heard by voters en route to casting their postal votes in the Divisional Secretariat premises in Passara, Karachchi, Ambagamuwa, Ududumbara and Lunugala.

Divisional Secretariat – Gomarankadawala, Trincomalee District.

Postal voting was temporary suspended due to a clash between M.K.D.S Gunawardana, MP (NDP), and Mr. Sadun Hemantha, a Member of Gomarankdawala Pradeshiya Sabha (UPFA), at around 9.10 a.m. According to a CMEV monitor, Mr. Gunawardana’s driver had assaulted Mr. Hemantha following a heated argument between Mr. Hemantha and Mr. Gunawardana. Mr. Hemantha has been taken to Gomarankadawala Rural Hospital with minor head injuries.

Voting re- commenced at 10.00 a.m after the Assistant Returning Officer of the Trincomalee District arrived at the scene.

Sri Lanka Army 68th Battalion Headquarters – Pudukuduirippu, Mullativu District.

A CMEV mobile monitor reported that the designated place for voting within this polling station does not allow for a secret vote as the Certifying Officer of the polling center has a clear view of each ballot that is being marked. CMEV was informed that 301 voters are registered to vote at the said polling station at the time the CMEV mobile monitor inspected the premises with 97 votes cast.

The CMEV monitor had taken up this issue with the Certifying officer Lt. Col. T.M.K.C Amarakoon who stated that they were unable to make alternative arrangements. CMEV has made a written complaint to the certifying officer in this regard.

Special Task Force camp- 3rd Mile Post, Siyabalanduwa, Monaragala District.

CMEV monitor reported that at around 7.30 a.m. R.P Herath, Commanding Officer of the camp informed him that voting was closed for the day after only about 5 votes were cast during the period the monitor was present. The Commanding Officer had further informed the CMEV monitor that the balance votes would be cast tomorrow. A total of 154 postal votes were registered at this camp.

When contacted by CMEV, Assistant Elections Commissioner for the Monaragala District, stated that the said closure was contrary to the directions provided by his office and that they will investigate into the matter.

Southern Provincial Council Building – Galle

CMEV monitor reported that hand bills were being distributed in front of the Southern Provincial Council Building in Galle. Chief Minister of the Southern Provincial Council, Mr. Shan Wijayalal Silva was also among the group distributing handbills.

Six polling stations are located within the premises of the Southern Provincial Council building with a total of 284 postal voters registered to cast their vote.

Labor Department Head office– Narahenpita

The CMEV polling station observer for the Labor Department was not granted access until 8.30 a.m to monitor the postal vote. The Certifying Officer Mr. Anura Muthumanna, a Labor Commissioner refused to allow access until a specific letter addressed to him, was produced stating that the specific observer should be given access. Following communications made with Assistant Election Commissioner Colombo, the CMEV observer was granted access to monitor the polling station. CMEV notes that this incident took place despite the monitor possessing a letter of authorization signed by the Commissioner of Elections authorising him to enter and monitor a polling station.

It was further reported by the monitor that a group of people were distributing handbills in front of the premises where the postal vote was being conducted.

Navy Camp – Welisara, Gampaha District

CMEV monitor was not permitted to enter the premises of the Navy camp by the security at the gate. The security informed our monitor that they were not aware of CMEV and therefore could not permit a representative of the organisation to enter the camp.

Again CMEV notes that this incident took place despite the monitor possessing a letter of authorisation signed by the Commissioner of Elections authorising him to enter and monitor a polling station.

The monitor was permitted to enter the camp to monitor postal voting at about 9.45 a.m after CMEV informed the Assistant Election Commissioner, Gampaha.

S.L.T.B Depot – Uppuveli, Trincomalee District.

A Jeep (registration number 30 – 0018) bearing a poster of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is parked in front of the polling station within the premises of the Depot. The CMEV polling station observer reported that the Jeep belonged to R.M.G Vijitha Dharmasiri Depot Manager of the Uppuveli Depot.

Furthermore a poster of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was prominently displayed within the premises of the Depot.

S.L.T.B Depot – Uppuveli, Trincomalee District 1 S.L.T.B Depot – Uppuveli, Trincomalee District 2

S.L.T.B Depot – Gampola, Kandy District

Posters of President of Mahinda Rajapaksa are prominently displayed within the premises of the Depot. The said posters have been present for at least two weeks and no steps have been taken remove them.

Headquarters of The Civil Security Department of Sri Lanka – Kilinochchi, Kilinochchi District.

A CMEV Mobile Monitor reported that officers of the Civil Security Department (CSD) were collecting information from civilian workers attached to the CSD as they left the polling station. Information collected included name, NIC number and time of voting.

The CMEV monitor had observed workers attached to the farms maintained by the CSD being separated into groups based on their work location and the information being collected accordingly.

When contacted by CMEV Major Sagara Weerasinghe, the Certifying Officer of the polling station, stated that such information was collected to ascertain the details of persons who had cast their postal votes today in order to facilitate internal administration of the farms. Major Weerasinghe stated that they needed this information to arrange transportation for tomorrow and to prepare work rosters so persons who had not cast their vote could be released from work tomorrow.

This conduct is particularly problematic in light of the serious allegations made against the CSD during the Northern Provincial Council election in September 2013. The Assistant Election Commissioner – Kilinochchi District is presently on location investigating the CMEV complaint.

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