CMEV writes to the President requesting to obtain the services of the Delimitation Commission that has already been established as a statutory institution at the National level for the delimitation process which was suggested by the recently approved Provincial Councils amendment Act in order to introduce a new electoral system to the Provincial Council elections.
Further CMEV highlights that appointing separate committees for this purpose sans obtaining the services of a Commission with the relevant expertise that has been already established for that very purpose will be to no avail. Furthermore, a suspicion has been emerging in the society owing to the fact that, appointing such committees is being used to prolong the commencement of elections as well. Apart from that, the Delimitation Commission could serve as an instrumental mechanism in the process of electoral reforms which will be taking place in the future.
The most recent presidential election held on the 8th of January 2015 was regarded as controversial due to various reasons. One of the frequently discussed aspects among them was the rampant misuse of state property by the previous regime. One instance of such misuse was the distribution of “Sil Redi” (Cloths warn in order to observe Sil on poyadays), that was conducted island-wide. Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) along with the other election observing organizations, complained to the Department of Elections with this regard while this misuse was taking place at the time. The revelations with that regard also were followed up consistently afterwards and it was yesterday that the verdict was given on the matter by the high court of Colombo. We believe that the said verdict will contribute to a certain extent in preventing the mal-intentioned precedent of rampant misuse of state property in order to win the elections, from taking place hereafter. The press release in relation to this matter has been published and can be downloaded in Sinhala, while the English and Tamil translations of the same, will be made available shortly.
The trailblazing advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka is no longer with us
At a significant juncture where an inclusive electoral process has been introduced with the interventions of the newly established Election Commission, Election Observing Organizations and various organizations and institutions advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, the demise of Uva Provincial Councilor Mr. Senarath Attanayake is indeed an incalculable loss in view of CMEV.
At the time of his sudden decease at the age of fifty-one years, he had accomplished many achievements in different aspects, among which the greatest is him being the first wheelchair user in Sri Lanka to become a qualified lawyer.
Moreover, he has represented Uva provincial council in different capacities including ministerial roles for over two decades. He was a member of the Uva provincial council till the end of his days and never abused his power for narrow political gains. Out of the three people who are actively involved in politics while being wheelchair users in the whole world, he held the record of having the longest political career in representing the provincial council membership.
At a time and age where the political rights of the persons with disabilities was cast aside, the intervention made by Mr. Attanayake with that regard, was not only just revolutionary but it was a timely initiative as well.
Among the progressive changes made recently with regard to the facilitation of voting for the persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka, the circular issued by the Election Commissioner on the first week of May in the year 2015 leading up to the general election held in the month of August, was initiated as a result of a request forwarded by Mr. Attanayake to the election commissioner. The said circular held the assistant/deputy election commissioners and other relevant officials accountable for facilitating the persons with disabilities in casting their votes at the election.
Subsequently, it was him who became the great shadow that stood behind the team of voluntary advocates, youth activists and all the civil society organizations who spearheaded the initiative known as Enabled Elections which was facilitated by CMEV and functioned as a coalition of various advocacy organizations like Wheels in Motion which was co-founded by Mr. Senarath himself and Enable Lanka foundation which was another youth-led organization advocating for mainstreaming disability inclusion in Sri Lanka under his mentorship. It was Mr. Senarath Attanayake who took the lead in persuading CMEV to take up the facilitating role for this initiative.
It was not only about the political and voting rights of the persons with disabilities that Mr. Senarath worked extensively. But also he focused on various other needs of the persons with disabilities where he strived to make Wellawaya a disabled-friendly city in alignment with a global initiative of building such inclusive spaces. At present, the Wellawaya city attests to his effort and stands out as an accessible and disabled-friendly city in Sri Lanka. He invested a greater portion of his consolidated funds towards the betterment of persons with disabilities while setting an example for the other members of the provincial council and local government levels.
He maintained a consistent rapport with the CMEV as well as the Election Commission and actively intervened in highlighting the issues of the persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka at the high-level international forums such as the UN general assembly every year.
In appreciation of his tremendous service, The Viscardi Center presented him Henry Viscardi Achievement Award in the year 2016, the statement on which is extracted below.
“Provincial Councilor of Uva Province, Mr. Senarath Attanayake (Attorney-at-Law), for receiving this year’s Henry Viscardi Achievement Award. (The Viscardi Center) These international Awards, first bestowed in 2013, recognize exemplary leaders within the disability community and their extraordinary societal contributions.” More information here.
As an organization proactively engaging in the area of advocating for the political and voting rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence observes the demise of Mr. Attanayake as an immeasurable loss. CMEV always recalls the well-informed, courageous and exemplary service of Mr. Senarath Attanayake with great admiration. A short video documentary produced by CMEV to be aired in a recently held TV interview based on the invaluable service he has rendered to the persons with disabilities in this country, can be viewed here.
The government must take immediate steps to rectify the situation that has arisen concerning the uncertainty of commencing the proposed provincial council and local government elections
The commencement of elections in due time in the appropriate manner, is a practice that reflects the proper establishment of democracy. Asserting the contribution of the citizenry in the said election and creating an environment that is conducive for free and fair elections, are inevitable obligations of any government. It must be emphatically stated that the true meaning of the sovereignty of the people as specified in the constitution of this country could only be realized in taking the relevant measures in the manner mentioned above.
As a matter of fact, all the election observing organizations in the country, express their profound disappointment over the prevailing uncertainty in relation to the current situation of commencing elections.
Local government elections – The general public is eagerly looking forward to see the elections being held with regard to the local government institutions under a new electoral system with greater representation for women in politics and the subsequent revitalization of their activities with a new vigor.
Yet however, both the current and previous regimes have been prolonging the commencement of these elections while attributing its infeasibility to the technical issues and irregularities. By and large, there is one critical step that is required to be taken at present in order to enable the commencement of local government elections, which is passing the draft bill of electoral reforms that has already been presented to the parliament. The responsibility of accomplishing this endeavor lies with the leaders of all political parties and the other members of the parliament.
Several years have elapsed since the discourse on the new reforms of the electoral process has been initiated. The amount of finances invested in this regard also has been enormous. The issues arisen owing to the absence of the public representatives in the local government institutions also are endless. While the situation remains thus, all the Election Observing Organizations are of the unanimous opinion that the government’s act of refraining from commencing the local government elections, is a deliberate and strategic curtailment of the expectations of general public.
It causes a direct infringement of people’s sovereignty as asserted in the constitution and it also imposes a grave risk upon the development process of the country as well.
Provincial Council Elections: Just a few weeks are remaining for the end of the terms of election in the north-central, eastern and Sabaragamuva provincial councils. Accordingly, the Election Commission intends to announce the call for nominations in the first week of October. Meanwhile, the government has presented a cabinet paper highlighting three key points: introducing reforms to the electoral process to commence provincial council elections in alignment with the local government elections, increasing the representation of women up to 30% in the process of nominations an holding the elections for all provincial councils on the same day, are the three points referred to above. The election observations organizations in the country have been advocating for the implementation of measures set out by these points for a long time and have been urging every government that have come to power thus far. These proposals will be much more conducive for the creation of a people-friendly provincial council. Hence on behalf of all the Election Observing Organizations, we express our appreciative gratitude to the government for proposing them sans further delay. While thus saluting the government for bringing forth such measures, there’s a very significant fact that needs to be reiterated with this regard. The measures proposed by the aforementioned points, could not be implemented in such haste with such short notice. The government needs to understand that the voters, who have been confused by the continual prolongment of the local government elections, are observing such measures with doubt and disdain. The commencement of all the provincial council elections within one day, which is one of the points presented above, seems a very progressive step at a glance. Such a measure could save a considerable amount of money for the government and it could also help prevent the abuse of state resources which can be seen in relation to the concentration of unnecessary effort on political scams to attract voters in specific provinces. Yet however, such a decision could only be made at a series of formal discussions that could be held in the future concerning the electoral reforms that introduces a new electoral system. If such a decision is made so suddenly, the voters could expect a provincial council election to be held only on the 8th of October in the year 2019 along with the dissolution of Uva provincial council. Accordingly it is the voter to whom an injustice is caused as a result of this decision made by the government. It so happens because the right to exercise the power of people’s sovereignty is prolonged for several more years owing to the postponement of the elections.
If the government is honestly deliberating on commencing the provincial council elections on the same day for all the provinces, what needs to be done is dissolving all the provincial councils in parallel with the dissolution of the provincial council that is due to be dissolved most recently, and commencing the election on the same day in every provincial council. Or else, the government can proceed with the existing system and commence the election on the same day in accordance with a properly scheduled timetable in all the provinces after holding a discussion on the election laws and the reforms of the electoral system.
It was not recently that all the Election Observing Organizations emphasized the need to reform the prevailing electoral system. And scheduling all the provincial council elections on the same day was not the only proposal made by the Election Observing Organizations with this regard. Therefore, it is indeed disheartening to note that certain elements of the government are making claims to indicate that the said proposal has also been presented and hence endorsed by the Election Observing Organizations. Regardless of the severity of chrysies surrounding the masses, people in this country still do have faith on elections. Ever since the general election that was held in the year 1947 to elect a diverse legislature with a wider representation, it was through democratic elections that the transfer of power took place in this country. Hence it must be insistently stated that the prolongment of elections that is being continued while alluding to the technical issues, does not fulfill the expectations of the citizens of this country although such an act could be perceived as a means of achieving the narrow political gains. Moreover, it also violates the laws, traditions and treaties by which the government is abided as signatories in both national and international levels.
It should be reminded that government is a body of trusteeship that has been appointed as per the franchise of the citizens, in order to fulfill the wishes and expectations of the general public during a tenure specified by the constitution and not an arbitrary entity that holds an authority to seize the inalienable rights to which the citizens are entitled. And we strongly urge the government to commence the elections in due time in the proper order and thereby, take the appropriate measures with accountability to protect the rights of the citizens of this country.
On behalf of all the Election Observation Organizations:
Rohana Hettiarachchi – PEOPLE’S ACTION FOR FREE & FAIR ELECTIONS (PAFFREL)
Manjula Gajanayake – CENTRE FOR MONITORING ELECTION VIOLENCE (CMEV)
Keerthi Thennakoon – CAMPAIGN FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION (CAFFE)
Manori Kalugampitiya – MOVEMENT FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTION (MFFE)
Asoka Obeyesekere – TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL SRI LANKA (TISL)
Daya Herath – MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS IN LANKA (MDL)
A joint media conference of main Election observation groups in Sri Lanka was held yesterday at CSR Maradana, to condemn the appointment of Anusha Palpita as the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs. As widely reported, Mr. Palpita is indicted before the High Court of Colombo in terms of offences against the Public Property act and the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (SLTRC) act. He is due to stand trial for allegedly misappropriating Rs 600 million worth funds, belonging to the SLTRC during 30th October 2014 and 5th January 2015.
Representatives of CMEV, Paffrel, TI, MFFE and CaFFE attended the media brief.
Experience Sharing Discussion Series on Electoral Process for Government Staff Officers organised by CMEV in partnership with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka:
As a part of the annual training plan which is being implemented with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is organizing a series of provincial level awareness sessions for all Staff Officers who are engaging with Election duties during Election time. The first awareness session was held at Solis Hotel, Matara.
Chairman of the Election Commission, Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, Director General of the Election Commission, Mr. U. Amaradasa, Chief Secretary of Southern Provincial Council and All District Secretaries/Returning Officers of Matara, Galle and Hambantota districts are participating at the event.
This is a great platform to share the lessons learnt and plan out future Election activities and it is nice to see all key administrative officers sharing their experiences with members and Chairman of Election Commission.
CMEV especially provided an insight on the importance of facilitating voting rights of Persons With Disabilities.
Comprehensive document as a proposed submission for the Public representative committee for the constitutional reforms has been drafted following an advocacy consultation convened by Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) on Feb 8th involving disability rights advocates, human rights organizations and disabled peoples’ organizations. This initiative has been made possible with the support of the International Federation of Electoral Assistance, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, the Northern Province Consortium for Disabled Associations, Enable Lanka Foundation and volunteers of the 2015 Enabled Elections coalition, and with the facilitation of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence.
Today at 2.pm, the translations of the said document will be submitted to the said committee in tandem with an oral submission of the proposals with the participation of numerous disability related organizations and persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka.
CMEV in collaboration with International Foundation for Electoral Systems convened an advocacy meeting today from 9:30 A.M. till 12:00 P. M. at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies auditorium with the participation of the coalition involved in the Enabled Election campaign and many other disabled persons’ organizations as well as disability advocates to discuss and draft a comprehensive document that addresses the need to devise and adopt provisions concerning the persons living with disabilities to be included in the constitutional reforms.
Over 25 participants represented various organizations and institutions related to persons living with disabilities at this meeting and provided their inputs in a progressive manner to be submitted to the committee that has been appointed to collate the contributions of the general public in relation to the drafting of a new constitution.
An initial draft prepared by a disability rights expert in IFES was presented to the participants in English, Sinhala and Tamil languages along with the Braille copies of the respective document. Based on the said document, a new draft was made with the inputs of the participants with the view to adopting the proposed provisions in the local context with more focus on several priority areas which were recommended to be submitted for the consideration of the aforesaid reviewing committee appointed by the government.
However, substantial inputs from any interested organizations or individuals can still be included in the final draft if they would be e-mailed to CMEV via firstname.lastname@example.org before the 10th of February 2016.
The photo highlights of today’s event can be viewed below.
The information and communications operations of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) for the Parliamentary Election held on 17 August 2015 was anchored to the foundations laid for the Presidential Election in January this year. Operational security from an information and communications perspective was radically different to the context in January. As subsequent reports have shown, the intelligence services, military and Police under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had invested heavily in surveillance infrastructure to contain, control and censor information, including around elections. CMEV’s info-sec (information security) and op-sec (operational security) considerations in August were not hostage to these same considerations and were thus re-engineered to be less around secure and resilient communications, and more around information dissemination.
Platforms and apps
As has always been the case, CMEV’s central hub remains its website where press releases, statements, communiques, infographics and mainstream media coverage of operations and output were added on a daily basis in the lead up to the election, as well as on election day. Leading up to and on election day, CMEV’s website saw a surge in traffic. On election day, the website was viewed over 1,300 times. Designed to be resilient against denial of service attacks as well as traffic spikes (hosted on WordPress.com) CMEV’s website – the only fully responsive website of an election monitoring body in Sri Lanka (rendering perfectly on whatever browser or device it is viewed on) – coped well.
Continuing what was started in January for the Presidential Election as a means of putting out information around monitoring operations even if CMEV’s website came under attack, WhatsApp was employed extensively in the lead up to and on election day. Two groups, totalling over 300 individuals from Sri Lanka and abroad received over 36 updated which included audio, text and links to documents in Sinhala, Tamil and English plus images in the form of charts and infographics. Every single update put online was sent through WhatsApp. The Sinhala civic media website Vikalpa, anchored to the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), also managed a WhatsApp based information service of its own, with its Editor – who was a CMEV monitor in Jaffna – providing updates in Sinhala throughout the day to over 100 individual subscribers.
CMEV’s Twitter account (@cmev) on election day alone published over 74 tweets. These included retweets of situation updates, engagement with other users, content and updates from CMEV plus links to pertinent news reports from the web. In contrast to the reach of CMEV’s website, CMEV’s Twitter feed alone, on election day, was read 23,534 times, over over the 7-day period ending 17 August, the account got 32,800 impressions – an average of around 5,000 impressions day. Over 230 clicked through to the web links the CMEV account tweeted, 177 retweeted our updates and 27 had favourited them. The level of engagement with CMEV’s content over social media was quantitatively and qualitatively higher than the Presidential Election in January.
In addition to CMEV, Groundviews (@groundviews) also put out updates on Twitter related to the election, complementing the output of CMEV. Whereas CMEV’s feeds stuck to information from CMEV itself or that which was from an official source, Groundviews tweeted opinion and news from other curated sources from Sri Lanka and abroad. Groundviews on Twitter over the 17 and 18 August was read over 80,000 times. Over the 7-day period ending 18 August, the account got 91,200 impressions, an average of around 19,500 a day. Also over the course of the week, 1,700 had clicked links tweeted by the account, over 360 had retweeted updates and close to a hundred had favourite them.
@CPASL, the Twitter account of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) also pushed out over 48 tweets on election day.
It must be noted that for all the accounts above, traffic was organic – in that there was no paid advertising pushing traffic to these accounts.
In addition to Twitter, CMEV, throughout election day, put out audio updates on Soundcloud.com, which were subsequently featured on CMEV’s Facebook, Twitter and sent over WhatsApp as well. Updates were in Tamil, Sinhala and English, at around the start of polling, mid-day and once polls closed. On the 17th alone, over 370 listened to these updates.
CMEV’s Facebook page, on which all output from CMEV is featured along with curated content from other official sources, saw a surge in traffic over the week. Reaching over 15,200 accounts, over 4,500 ‘liked’ the page in the course of the week. Engagement with content on the page was also very high, with over 1,000 fans commenting on, liking or sharing the content published by CMEV. Organic readership on the 17th was exceeded 2,000.
Continuing a tri-lingual campaign to encourage the exercise of franchise particularly amongst first time voters and those between 18 – 24 in particular, Groundviews, CPA and CMEV as well as Maatram (CPA’s Tamil language civic media eco-system) and Vikalpa re-featured the #iwillvote campaign across all web properties as well as, on the morning of the election, through an email sent to around 8,000 subscribers. The Editor of Groundviews Sanjana Hattotuwa posted an image at 7.12am on Groundviews noting that he had voted, using the virality of selfies particularly amongst the target demographic to promote the exercise of franchise. At 6.30am, the campaign was published over social media and sent out over email. By mid-day, this had resulted in hundreds uploading to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter images they had taken after voting. Though less in number overall than on the 8th of January, the #iwillvote hashtag was re-ignited independent of CPA/CMEV/Groundviews, demonstrating the interest in the larger community around voter mobilisation through online and social media channels. The use of #iwillvote’s images (copyright free in tri-lingual) also reinforced the enduring validity of the campaign launched by CPA earlier this year.
General observations around social media
In addition to the information eco-systems of CPA, Groundviews, CMEV, Maatram and Vikalpa – reaching hundreds of thousands – the larger social media ecosystems around the Parliamentary Election is worth further study. Snapshots of this landscape on and leading up to election day follows.
For the first time, Facebook encouraged all its users based in Sri Lanka to update their status messages around the election. While opt-in (users could choose to ignore the Facebook prompt) this move by Facebook around voter mobilisation resulted in thousands updating their Facebook status to reflect the fact they were going to vote, had voted and various shades of political opinion. The status message also linked to the Election Department’s official website, which promptly crashed on account of the traffic. While re-instated later in the day, the engineering into such a critical website – which has repeatedly gone down at every single major election – remains hugely suspect and in need of urgent reform. Most citizens were delivered information around the results of the Parliamentary Elections via SMS news services or election results dashboards set up on private media websites, in addition to of course radio and TV broadcasts.
Another key feature around the Parliamentary Elections was the use of Facebook in particular to promote candidates and political parties through individual accounts (i.e. through voluntary disclosure and without paid advertising). Many on Facebook used the platform to publicly reveal who they were voting for, why and encouraged others to vote for the same candidates or party. Others were more discreet and said they were voting to continue the change brought around on the 8 of January.
The open publication of political preferences – not just to Facebook friends, but as public posts anyone even without a Facebook account, or outside one’s friend’s network could see – is a major development in the discursive landscape of social media, and was reflected in updates in Sinhala and Tamil too (though your author’s primary focus was content in English). One possible reason for this is the freedom of expression, felt across the political spectrum, after the change of Presidency in January. Whereas in January there was a groundswell of opinion over social media around regime change, just a handful expressed openly the desire to be rid of the Rajapaksa’s and there was not a single update across any social media observed that to the extent evident on and around 17 August openly stated voting preferences, political opinion and political opposition.
Tacitly acknowledging the power of social media and its reach, the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa took to Twitter at 7.29 on the morning of the 18th to counter a story on AFP noting that he had conceded defeat and that his dreams of becoming PM were dashed. The story grew virally across local and international mainstream media as well as social media. @groundviews over Twitter and Facebook first tweeted Udaya Gammanpila’s Facebook update that the UPFA had lost the election, refuting directly the former President’s comment on Twitter that he couldn’t accept victory or concede defeat until the final results were officially released. This interplay of social media and web based mainstream media news resulted in heightened traffic to sites and accounts with updates around what the former President said, or didn’t say, along with others from the UPFA contradicting him or seemingly conceding defeat as well. It is unclear if TV and radio broadcasts picked up on this traffic spike. Reflecting this heightened exchange, at around 7.30am on the 18th, when official election results were trickling in, Twitter updates around the elections reached their peak. Groundviews monitored two hashtags #SLGE15 and #GenElecSL – which were by Sri Lanka’s Twitter community writ large accepted as the two ‘official’ hashtags to use around election updates. #SLGE15 at around 7.30am was peaking at around 9 tweets a minute. #GenElecSL at around 24 tweets a minute. As long as Groundviews has archived public tweets around events in Sri Lanka (Twitter Q&A, UN debates, elections) this was the most amount of tweets ever published in the same span of time.
Social media – Facebook and Twitter in particular – were also used to fan discord and sow unrest by spreading false rumours. The LTTE and UNP were frequently joined, and others claimed the result of the election was “an international conspiracy”. Yet others on Twitter said the new Government would lead to Eelam’s fruition, and many published derogatory comments about Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of UNP, and surprisingly, also on President Sirisena. Given reports that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa employed vast numbers of individuals in strategic, carefully planned media operations including over social media to construct his image, and shape the discourse (including by planting false information and rumours), the effect of these disinformation and misinformation was minimal. One reason for this could be, as noted early, the opening up of the discursive spaces online resulting in the former President’s modus operandi – controlling the meta-narrative in a tightly censored space – falling apart. With hundreds of independent voices all publishing at the same time and calling to question the record of the former President and those in his government, attempts to incite hatred and the use of incendiary language did not have the same impact as intended, and would have been possible under a repressive political context.
Overall, the information and communications operations of CMEV, complemented by the updates put out by Groundviews, Maatram, Vikalpa and CPA itself, remain unparalleled. From field based information gathering to communicating in real time to CMEV’s HQ, from the use of social media to the coverage CMEV operations received across Tamil, Sinhala and English mainstream print media – including the international press – was qualitatively and quantitatively more than the Presidential Election. CMEV’s information generation, dissemination and storage remains a model for other electoral processes to emulate, especially those operating in austere, censorious and authoritarian contexts.
All CMEV output is in the public domain, and copyright free.
17 August 2015: CMEV deployed a total of approximately 4000 monitors in the field, in polling stations and in mobile teams in the 2015 General Election. In addition, CMEV deployed 75 mobile teams, 21 international observers and 90 observers in counting centers.
On the day of polling, 316 incidents with 109 Major Incidents and 207 Minor Incidents were recorded. Of the 109 Major Incidents CMEV documented 37 incidents against the UNP & 28 against the UPFA. One incident related to the assault of a former Provincial Council Minister by a UNP candidate in Nawalapitiya. Six incidents of threat and intimidation were also reported during polls. CMEV notes that on the day of elections, several other incidents were reported including electioneering and violations of election laws. Despite this, CMEV notes the General Election to be relatively free and fair.
CMEV estimates voter turnout to be between 70- 75%, a decrease from the high turnout of 81.52% in the Presidential Elections. Particular areas which witnessed a lower voter turnout at the General Election as opposed to the Presidential Election in January 2015 include Batticaloa, Digamadulla, Kandy, Kalutara, Gampaha, Galle, Monaragala and Kurunagala
CMEV commends the Commissioner for Elections, Mahinda Deshapriya and the Inspector General of Police, N.K Illangakoon and their officers, for both providing and sustaining an enabling environment for a free and fair election. In particular, CMEV’s monitoring of the pre-election period and Election Day highlights speedy action taken by the Police in implementing election laws. Such measures reinforced public confidence in the respective officials upholding the rule of law and in their taking the steps necessary to protect the integrity of the poll.
The lead up to the General Election created an environment to recognize and provide for the voting rights of persons with disabilities, with specific reference here to the Election Commissioner’s Circular No. De/LI/PR/03 issued in May 2015, directing officials to take specific steps to ensure that persons with disabilities are supported in the exercise of their franchise. CMEV has taken many steps to support this initiative and noted some improvements at the General Election in this regard, but urges the relevant officials to take all necessary steps to provide for the full realization of the right to franchise among persons with disabilities.
Finally, CMEV reiterates its call for independent institutions including independent commissions for elections, police and public services, underscoring the need for constitutional and legal reform to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. In this regard, CMEV calls for the full implementation of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the appointment of the Constitutional Council without further delay.
Download this report as a PDF here.
Profile of Major Incidents
At the end of the campaign on August 14th, 2015, CMEV received 810 complaints of which 143 were classified as Major. Of the latter category, Murder was recorded at 04, Hurt at 05, Grievous Hurt at 03, Assaults at 46, Threat and Intimidation at 08, Misuse of State Resources at 47, Robbery at 01, Arson at 16, Abduction at 02, Damage to Property at 10 and an incident of Bribery. In 12 incidents the use of firearms was recorded. Of the latter, the UNP was identified as the alleged perpetrator in 03 incidents, the SLMC in 01 and in the rest, the alleged perpetrator has not been identified.
Of the Major Incidents, 07 occurred in the Batticaloa Polling Division, 05 in Mannar, 05 in Jaffna and 05 in Minuwangoda. In the incidents where the perpetrator has been identified, the UPFA has been named in 49 incidents, the UNP in 38, ITAK in 08, EPDP in 06, the SLMC in 08 and the AITC in 01.
Four (04) Murders have marred the election campaign, which has otherwise recorded incidents of violence of a relatively low scale and intensity in comparison to the past. As shown in the graph below the percentage proportion of Major Incidents of the total of those reported throughout the campaign is 17% as opposed to 45%, 56% and 54% in the 2010 Presidential and General Election campaigns and the 2015 Presidential Election campaign, respectively.
CMEV monitors have reported on the enabling political environment for campaigning and political discussion and about the space and freedom for action without interference on the part of the Election Commissioner and the Police. Both have acted to ensure adherence to the election laws, though there have been complaints about the lack of clarity and consistency with regard to implementation and in some cases the ad hoc nature of such. CMEV notes too that the strict adherence to existing election laws in respect of posters, could in practice work to the disadvantage of first time candidates and those with less resources to resort to advertisements on the electronic media. According to the Police, 790 suspects have been arrested with regard to election violence and violations of election laws. CMEV has details of 382 arrests as follows:
|District||No. of Arrested Persons||Police Division||No. of Arrested Persons|
*Kurunegala Police Division did not revealed information related to arrests
16th August 2015 Colombo, Sri Lanka
16th August 2015 – Murder, Hiniduma Electorate, Neluwa, Galle District
It was reported to CMEV that a dead body was found at Lellwala, Neluwa area, Hiniduma electorate in the Galle District around 7.00 am on the 16th of August 2015. According to the report, the victim has been identified as Mr. Chandradasa Wickramasinghe, 63 years old, a UPFA supporter who maintained a party office in support of UPFA Gall District candidate Mr. Piyasena Gamage.
When contacted, Mr.Chandradasa’s brother Mr. Gunapala Wickramasinghe, informed CMEV that he cannot suspect anyone in this regard and further noted that the victim, a father of two did not have any enemies in his private life too.
CMEV contacted UPFA Galle District Candidate Mr. Piyasena Gamage who said that the victim was a key supporter and that he did not have any suspects at this point.
When contacted the Vice Chairman of Neluwa Pradeshiya Sabha, Mr. Piyarathna Gamage, he stated that it was difficult to comment on this incident and as to whether it is linked to the election.
However, the report further stated that a UNP party office is also located around 75 meters away from the place of the incident and it was revealed that the victim used to visit the said UNP party office regularly to play cards. When CMEV contacted Mr. Venura Gunawardane, a person at the said UNP party office, he informed CMEV that the victim Mr. Chandradasa has left around 9.30 pm on 15th August (yesterday).
A complaint has been lodged with the Neluwa Police Station, under CIB 352/13.When contacted the Neluwa Police Station, OIC Mr. Panawela (IP) informed that this incident is suspected to be the result of a personal conflict and not related to the election. However, he further stated that the magisterial investigation is underway and that a sharp tool used in this murder has been taken for further investigation to identify perpetrators.
15th August 2015 – Murder, Oddamavadi, Valachenai, Batticaloa District
An incident where Mr. Ameen, a UNP supporter has been shot dead by two unidentified persons on a motor bike at around 12.00 noon on 15th August 2015 at Savana Hajjiar Junction in Oddamavadi, Batticaloa was reported to CMEV. According to the report, the victim, Mr. Ameen, is said to be one of the main supporters of Batticaloa District UNP candidate Mr. Amir Ali.
Mr. Amir Ali, speaking to CMEV stated that this shooting can be considered as a continuation of the assault of the previous day (14th August 2015), in which UNP supporters were allegedly assaulted by SLMC supporters. Mr. Amir Ali further stated that he suspects the SLMC as the perpetrators of this murder and SLMC Batticaloa District Candidate Mr. Rialdeen in particular. CMEV has a video record of Mr. Amir Ali in relation to this allegation.
In the absence of the OIC, an officer of the Vallachenai Police Station confirmed this incident. The Police further stated that no suspect has so far been taken in to custody in this regard and that investigations are underway.
CMEV contacted Mr. Rialdeen, SLMC Candidate who categorically rejected these allegations against him and his party supporters.
CMEV received the following from Ms Nimalka Fernando and Mr Sudharshana Gunawardene respectively, in response to the CMEV report of 7th August 2015. CMEV publishes them below:
The following is from Ms Nimalka Fernando
It is regrettable to note that a complaint has been logged in your website with my name
as Executive of INFORM (including Sudarshana’s) as violating election laws.
a) Before this complaint was keyed into your complaint list a verification should have been
made re the details. Verification was not made.
b) I am NOT an Executive of INFORM
c) I am NOT a monitor(not in any list) nor am I a member of the Election Monitoring Committee of MDL and is representing MDL for General Election 2015 monitoring process. We have our own internal rules in MDL re these matters and regulations.
d) The complainant obviously has given you a biased report. I did participate in a meeting convened by the Jathika NGO Sammenalaya as a member of the Advisory Council appointed by the Prime Minister to explain to NGO representatives re the removal of circular issued by the MOD and assure them of `freedom of assembly and association’ as per ensured in our Constitution.
f) I have also informed the Election Commissioner I am involved in field work promoting Yahapalanaya and not to panic about me violating election laws.
The following is from Mr. Sudharshana Gunewardene
I am also writing this with regard to the report appeared in your cmev.org website. I regret that my name has been mentioned in the report without making an effort to make a clarification from me, as I have violated the election law by speaking at a meeting organized by the UNP.
I support the facts mentioned in the letter sent to you by Dr. Nimalka Fernando with regard to the nature of the meeting.
I also state that I have participated in the above mentioned meeting in my capacity as a member of the advisory committee to the National NGO secretariat appointed by the hon. Prime Minister who is also the minister of policy planning and economic affairs.
I further state that this was not a meeting organized by UNP or any other political party.
I further state that I deny the allegation that I have addressed the above mentioned meeting, let alone criticizing Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse.
Therefore, I would like to kindly request you that you make a correction to that report by stating your report was incorrect. If you still stand by on your report then I request an inquiry be held on this regard which I am willing to take part.