Wayamba, déjà vu

The provincial election in the east has concluded with a three member UPFA majority council in place. The results released, reveal that the UPFA has managed to overturn mammoth majorities achieved by the UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe in the 2005 presidential election. In terms of total number of votes cast, its majority over all other parties is some 41,000 votes.

Throughout the campaign and on polling day, the election was marred by violence and malpractice. Accordingly, the credibility of the result has been undermined and the election will join the infamous Wayamba Provincial Election in notoriety.

During the campaign, election monitors and opposition political parties alleged widespread abuse of state resources and the issue of the TMVP bearing arms, cast its shadow over the campaign. Whilst the argument was made and continues to be made, that armed TMVP cadres did not engage in active electioneering, there is no escaping the chilling effect on the voters at large, of the relationship between the political activists of the TMVP and its armed cadres.

Vulnerable to revenge
In any event, the ordinary voter has to survive beyond the election campaign and polling day. In short, he is always vulnerable to revenge and retaliatory attacks.

Violence was practiced by other UPFA members too, with the areas of Valachchenai and Kathankudy as well as the Pottuvil Polling Division being especially badly affected by violence and malpractice.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence ( CMEV) with which this columnist is associated, called for a re-poll in these areas on the basis of reports from its monitors, as it has done in respect of LTTE violence in previous elections in the north and east. Impersonation, ballot stuffing, the chasing away of polling agents and the presence of armed groups in the vicinity of polling stations were the violations most frequently identified.

17th Amendment
The violence and malpractice reinforces the demand for the urgent implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. Specifically, the reconstitution of the Constitutional Council and its nomination of members to the independent commissions, including for elections, the police and the public service. It was the civil society cry, after all, with regard to electoral violence and malpractice that served as the catalyst for the amendment.

Whilst the implementation of the 17th Amendment is no panacea, the point that needs to be emphasised is that when it was in operation, elections were not marred by such violence and malpractice, with the exclusion of violence clearly perpetrated by the LTTE.

Independent commissions provide public servants and the police with some insurance against ‘punishment transfers’ and other forms of revenge when they stand up to the worst excesses of politicians.

Bulwark against violence
Whilst the argument may be advanced that it may not have been much of a defence against TMVP violence in this election, it could well have served as a bulwark against the violence and malpractice engaged in by non-TMVP political actors.

Even with regard to TMVP violence, would it have been the case that the much heralded entry into the democratic mainstream would have been marked by assault and intimidation of police and election officials acting in the interest of a free and fair election and without fear or favour?

The eastern poll also highlights the whole issue of the circumstances of annulment of a poll in a polling station and the ordering of a re-poll by the Elections Commissioner who can exercise all the powers of the Elections Commission envisaged under the 17th Amendment, but never appointed.

Decision to re-poll
Of particular importance here, is that the decision to re-poll must be informed by the circumstances and situation outside the polling station. This is where the impersonation is prepared, where the armed gangs roam deterring people from voting or of voting for the candidate of their choice.

Furthermore, the threat, intimidation and assault of polling agents who when inside polling stations can raise the alarm and object to impersonation and attempted stuffing, takes place outside of polling stations and most often before the polling commences.

This has been the case with officials and the police too. The issue of annulment and re-polling requires serious consideration – too often has the Commissioner warned that he would do so ; and too often has he not.

It may not necessarily be smooth sailing for the regime or the clear and cogent demonstration of meaningful devolution as the instrument of peace building, now that there is a council.

Betrayal of Tamil polity
Were Pillayan not to be made chief minister, the regime risks falling victim to the charge of betrayal of the Tamil polity in the east which it insists it has been ‘liberating,’ Thoppigala on. In these circumstances, Pillayan and his cadres are bound to misbehave more grossly than they have done so far and the possibility of new alliances jeopardising the ‘liberation’ of the east, cannot be discounted.

On the other hand, were he to be made chief minister and yet denied the resources and largesse he thinks is his due, a not dissimilar outcome may be expected from his disappointment. After all, he probably believes it is payback time for him and his cadres who played so decisive a role in winning the east from the LTTE and the provincial election from the opposition? And what of the police powers he is entitled to under the 13th Amendment?

It may well turn out to be the case that in the mind of the regime, what needed to be done in the east has been done and now priorities lie elsewhere. This could mean a series of provincial council contests aimed at exhausting and demoralising the opposition until the period between November 2009 and April 2010, in which the next presidential election can be held and the next general election must be held. Pillayan will be contained and controlled in the meantime.

And the rest of us?

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and Co-Convenor of CMEV. This article appeared in the Morning Leader on 14 May 2008.

Eastern Provincial Council Elections, May 2008 – Recommendations of CMEV

  • The conduct of the election clearly reinforces the urgency and pivotal importance of implementing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in full.  This entails the reconstitution of the Constitutional Council and its nomination of members to independent commissions, including commissions for the Police, Elections and Public Service – all of which have key responsibilities for the conduct of free and fair elections.
  • The serious problems observed by monitors regarding the conduct of the Police and officials responsible for the conduct of a free and fair election demands this.
  • Political parties need to ensure that their Polling Agents are present in the Polling Stations and are not deterred in fulfilling their responsibilities by threat, intimidation and assault prior to Polling Day and on Polling Day.
  • The procedures agreed upon with regard to Voter identity and the required documentation with regard to this, must be clearly communicated to the officials in the Polling Stations and strict implementation ensured. IDs required for voting must be such that they cannot be easily forged.
  • Given the violence and malpractice that takes place outside of the Polling Station and the impact it has on the exercise of the franchise, procedures must be put in place to ensure that reports of these violations are taken into account when considering whether annulment and re – polling is necessary.
  • Steps should be taken to ensure that the detailed reports of election observers/monitors stationed in Polling Stations can be received by their organizations in time to be communicated to the Election Commissioner, before the counting of votes commences.

Media Conference on election-related violence – Eastern Provincial Council Election, May 2008







CMEV Bulletin of 10th May 2008 – 3rd Release


Media Communiqué on Election-related Violence

Eastern Provincial Council Election – 2008

10th May 2008 – 2030 hrs – Media Communiqué 3

CMEV has recorded 64 incidents of violence as at 6 pm today, 10 May.  Of these, 48 have been classified as Major Offences and 16 as Minor. The majority of the Major Offences – 28 -were committed in the Batticaloa District followed by Ampara (12) and Trincomalee (08). 


Of the Major Offences, systematic impersonation was the most widespread with a particular concentration in the Batticaloa District where 15 of the 22 such incidents occurred.


Areas of serious concern in respect of violence and malpractice in the province are Valaichchenai and Kathankudy in the Batticaloa District, the Pottuvil Polling Division in the Ampara District and Thiriyai in the Trincomalee District.


CMEV calls upon the Election Commissioner to order a re-poll in these areas.






CMEV monitors observed a number of incidents of electoral malpractices and of voter impersonation in particular, in thirteen (13) Polling Stations in the Pottuvil Polling Division  Monitors observed children who looked as young as 13-15 years of age casting votes. They also observed that there was no proper procedure for the identification of voters, no designated officer to check the Identity Cards of voters and that only TMVP Polling Agents were present in these Polling Stations.


The Polling Stations in the Pottuvil Polling Division are :


42  Koraikalapu Shakthi Vidyalaya, Vinayagapuram

48 AK/Kalliyanthivu Wadivel Vidyalaya, Kalliyanthivu

49 World Vission Pre School, Thirukkovil 4

50 AK/Kanchirankuda Govt. Tamil Mixed School, Thirukkovil 4

51 AK/Thambiluvil Kalaimagal Vidyalaya, Thambiluvil (Hall No. 01)

52 AK/Thambiluvil Central College, Thambiluvil

53 AK/Thambiluvil Kalaimagal Vidyalaya, Thambiluvil (Hall No. 02)

54 AK/Thambiluvil Saraswathy Vidyalaya, Thambiluvil

70 AK/Alayadivembu Thirunavukarasu Vidyalaya, Alayadivembu

71 AK/Akkaraipattu Sri Ramakrishna Central College, Akkaraipattu Hall No.01

72 AK/Akkaraipattu Sri Ramakrishna Central College, Akkaraipattu Hall No.02

73 AK/Akkaraipattu Ramakrishna Mission School, Akkaraipattu

74 AK/Akkaraipattu As-Sipaya Vidyalaya, Jamath Alim Nagar



UNP supporters claimed that they were assaulted and their national ID Cards snatched in close proximity to Galode Vidyalaya (Polling Station 51) and Miriswatte Vidyalaya (Polling Station 45) this morning. The Padiyathalaawa Police when contacted by CMEV, confirmed that they had received a complaint from the UNP supporters. The Police said they would reinvestigate and have summoned the complainants for this purpose. 




CMEV monitors reported that at 3.20 pm, a number of vehicles including jeeps and pick-ups were observed moving around Ampara Town. Some of these vehicles did not have license plates and in some of them, there were individuals dressed in civilian clothes carrying arms.




CMEV was informed of alleged voter impersonation taking place at Polling Station 112 BT Japiathul Arabic Collage, Kattankudy, Batticaloa Polling Division at around noon. Farook Majeed Deputy Chairman, SLMC reported that a group of people standing in front of the Polling Station were distributing false ID cards to voters who were then being sent in to vote. The group continued to stay nearby, even up to midday.


Grama Sevaka Mr Mohamed Jaroof complained that he was threatened by UPFA supporters following an attempted impersonation of a voter. The Senior Polling Officer in Polling Station 114 Meera Balika Maha Vidyalaya reportedly called and inquired into the validity of a certified identity card (a replacement for the national ID) from the GS as the details on the card did not tally with the voting list. The GS denied that he had issued the certified National Identity Card. This had reportedly led to the GS being intimidated by UPFA supporters.



An UNP Polling Agent, M. Siyath, was assaulted allegedly by supporters of M.L.A. Hisbullah outside the Polling Station 110 Hiluriya Vidyalaya, Kattankudy at 10 a.m this morning.



In Polling Station 24 and 25 BT Murakkoddanchenai Ramakrishna Mission Tamil Mixed School, Kalkuda Polling Division unidentified individuals in civilian clothing were observed obtaining information from Police Officers and making inquiries as to how many people had voted. The Police Officers were observed as having passing on this information. 





An eye witness, who refuses to be named for reasons of his personal security, informed CMEV monitors of incidents of ballot stuffing in Polling Stations in Thiriyai – namely. Thiriyai  M.V. Hall 2 (B 86), Thiriyai MV Hall 3 (B 87) and Al –Nooriya MV Hall 2 (B 83).  He claims that by 7am this morning people transported in a bus and several vans entered the Polling Stations and stuffed the ballot boxes.  In Polling Station, Thiriyai MV Hall 1 ( B84) the SPO and Police resisted and prevented ballot stuffing.



In the Trincomalee Polling Division, as reported to the Trincomalee Police and confirmed by CMEV monitors, unidentified persons, arriving in a Dolphin van 51-4198, an Intercooler 64-9347 and an Indian Jeep bearing the number WP HH 7288, had assaulted UNP MP Sarath Chandra Rajakaruna and his team and forcibly taken their camera. The incident  took place at around 11.30 a.m. When contacted by CMEV, the Trincomalee Police Station stated that they could not confirm this incident.  



At 11am, CMEV monitors observed attempted voter impersonation at Polling Station 90 Naduoooththu Government Muslim School, Kinniya. Persons attempting to vote had to be turned away as their NICs did not tally with the Voter list. The area around the Polling Station was noted to be tense.



CMEV was 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. It is currently constituted by CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre.



CO – CONVENOR                                                      CO – CONVENOR                                          CO – CONVENOR


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“Large scale impersonations, intimidation and widespread violence” – Interview with Sunanda Deshpariya (in English and Sinhala)

Interview with Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement (FMM) which is part of the CMEV, conducted at around 7.20pm today. Sunanda was in the East heading some of the CMEV monitoring efforts and was still in the field when this interview was conducted. 

Listen to his interview streamed in English here or download as a MP3 file by clicking this link

Listen to his interview streamed in Sinhala here or download as a MP3 file by clicking this link