The media is a stakeholder that can never be excluded in any country in which democratic elections are conducted. Regardless of whether the media entity is conventional and mainstream or alternative and new, media behavior indisputably affects the integrity of any election. Continued election observation undertaken by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) over several decades in Sri Lanka has strongly proven that the role of the media in the electoral process in the country is decisive.
While there is an ongoing discussion concerning the role of the media in this country, what is of utmost significance is establishing practices where the strong connectivity between the media and elections can be considered together, rather than allowing the media to be considered as a factor detached from the electoral process.
Accordingly, the objective of this small booklet designed and published by CMEV is to provide a glimpse of the nature of reporting carried out by mainstream newspapers during the election period. This reporting carried news and perspectives on the election to voters as the campaign unfolded. Sri Lankan newspapers have wide and increasing circulation across the country and thus have the power of informing and shaping the views of society, across any issue connected to elections. What is collated in this publication is the perspectives of a diverse range of newspapers having such circulation during the election.
This document first provides an overview of some of the interventions made by CMEV in this period. It also details media coverage of CMEV’s activities and interventions. Finally, the document provides a snapshot of activity on CMEV’s official website and Facebook pages, as indicators of CMEV’s online operations during this period.
Complaint letter CMEV lodged with the Election Commission about the Director-General of Department of Samurdhi Development misusing voter lists released for COVID-19 relief programmes to campaign illegally. CMEV is still awaiting a response.
This short guide has been prepared by CMEV to offer election stakeholders and voters a brief overview of some key considerations for holding an election during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It provides an outline of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected elections worldwide; special health and safety measures taken for elections already held worldwide; and important factors to note in the SriLankan electoral context. It is hoped that these considerations are taken into account by all election stakeholders when decisions are made regarding the Parliamentary General Election in Sri Lanka.
Public Officials Engaging in Illegal Election Campaigning
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) would like to express its appreciation of the Election Commission for some positive decisions that have been already taken based on certain incidents in relation to the upcoming General Election.
We believe that, similar to the last Presidential Election, there will be a rise in public officials engaging in election campaigning and making undue interventions which contravene their functions.
CMEV wishes to highlight one such incident regarding the Director of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, Doctor A.M.S. Weerabandara, who has been engaging in election campaigning in a very biased and ethnically divisive manner while still remaining a public official.
The extensive efforts being taken by the Election Commission to ensure the integrity of the election process is challenged and put at a high risk by activity such as the above being done without receiving appropriate leave or by terminating the current employment for the purpose of promoting various political parties.
Section 01 of Chapter 32 of the Establishment Code of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, provides limitations through sub-sections 1.1, 1.2.3 and 1.3 on staff officers not being entitled to enjoy political rights, specifically on the establishment of election candidacy or executing initial actions for the purpose of election candidacy. These provisions have been violated by the Director’s actions.
We urge the Election Commission to take immediate action to initiate an investigation on the conduct of the said Director who should be aware of the limitations imposed on a staff officer yet has intentionally both violated the election law and disregarded the medical profession’s rules and regulations related to the public service for the purpose of political gains.
We urge the Election Commission to use for an investigation:
Enclosed observation notes and records compiled by CMEV
Acknowledgement by the Director himself that he engaged in such election campaigning
Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya,Chairman, Election Commission of Sri Lanka, President Council Mr. Naleen Abeysekara, Member of Election Commission of Sri Lanka Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Member of Election Commission of Sri Lanka,
Election Commission of Sri Lanka,
13 / 10 / 2019
Presidential Election 2019: Candidates contesting the Presidential Election 2019, violating the Code of Ethics announced by the Election Commission by using statements made by military officers.
Despite the requirement of every candidate contesting the Presidential Election to abide by the Code of Ethics set out by the Election Commission when conducting their election campaigns, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) wishes to draw the attention of the Election Commission to a violation of the Code of Ethics, as appeared in a paper advertisement.
Three newspapers due for the distribution on 13 / 10 / 2019 (today) carried full-page advertisements which featured statements made by former Triforce Commanders about Presidential Candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
One example that stands out is the statement made by the present Army Commander, Lt. Gen Shavendra Silva on the 28th of December 2009. Lt. General Silva is still the Army Commander on active duty (please refer to the attached advertisement for evidence) and the use of his statement compromises the integrity of civil-military relations in Sri Lanka. We further believe that the integrity of the election would be severely compromised if other candidates also adopted this practice.
We recommend that suitable measures be taken in response to this and greatly appreciate it if you notify us about the measures taken in relation to this matter.
Please be assured of out cooperation
Look forward to your response
It was reported that one of the coordinating secretaries to the Minister and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella has threatened Mr. Namal Thalangama, Deputy Commissioner of Elections – Kandy. This incident has taken place at the district election office at around 10 AM. The said coordinating secretary has entered the election office premises and had made inquiries into claims and objections related to the enumeration 2017.
Since the country will be heading towards a Local Government election within few months, such developments are not healthy to conduct free and fair elections in the future. Party leaders must also take disciplinary action against those who were involved with the incident.
CMEV has been proactively contributing towards the electoral process of Sri Lanka from the very outset. As a vital component of supporting the progressive steps taken with this regard by the newly established Elections Commission of Sri Lanka, CMEV facilitated the enrichment of knowledge and skills of the high level election staff officers through a comprehensive action plan that’s aimed at providing a series of important training sessions.
The said action plan prepared by CMEV to be mobilized in collaboration with the election commission of Sri Lanka was presented to the participants during the 2 day residential training programme on delimitation and electoral boundaries held in Diyathalawa.
The most significant item of this event is the presentation of a special gift (a collection of cartoon portrayals published by all the national newspapers in all three languages during the Presidential and the General Election time period) about Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya. It was awarded by Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, the co-convener of CMEV and the executive director of CPA, to chairman of the Election Commission Mr.Mahinda Deshapriya in appreciation of his unwavering commitment and immense service rendered on behalf of the nation.
Dr. P. Saravanamuttu was also awarded with a token of appreciation by the chairman of the Election Commission for his constant support to the betterment of the electoral process in the country.
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 email@example.com before the 10th of February 2016.
The photo highlights of today’s event can be viewed below.
Download this communique as a PDF here. Download it in Tamil here.
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 a PDF of this communique here. Download it in Tamil here.
Whilst there have been reports of violence and malpractice, polling in this General Election has been largely peaceful and without hindrance. The Police in particular have been vigilant in protecting the integrity of the electoral process and have arrested 50 individuals for violations of election law.
The graphic below illustrates the comparison of incidents of violence and malpractice on election day in this election with that of the last three national elections.
At the end of polling, CMEV has recorded a total of 316 incidents. Of these, while 109 have been categorized as Major Incidents, 196 Minor Incidents have also been reported. The highest number of Major Incidents relate to the intimidatory presence of party supporters in the vicinity of polling centres. Four (4) incidents of Threat and Intimidation in the polling divisions of Pathadumbara in Kandy, Medawachchiya in Anuradhapura, Kopay in Jaffna and Eheliyagoda in Ratnapura respectively were also reported along with 01 incident of Assault from Nawalapitiya in the Kandy district. Below is a summary of incidents.
CMEV has recorded 43 incidents with regard to the presence of party supporters in the vicinity of polling centres in the Northern (10), Eastern (5), North Western (5), Uva (5), Central (3) and Western (10) Provinces.
CMEV received reports of 06 incidents related to threat and intimidation.
Assault in Nawalapitiya
Mr. Anurudda Amarasena, the former Member of Pasbage Korale Pradeshiya Sabha was allegedly assaulted by UNP Candidate Mr. Ananda Aluthgamage at around 2.45 p.m. at the Nawalapitiya Central College polling centres 45 and 46 in the Nawalapitiya electorate, Kandy. The victim was admitted to Nawalapitya hospital for treatment. He has filed a complaint with the Nawalapitiya Police Station. No arrest has been made so far.
Person arrested violating election law – Colombo
The CMEV monitor present at the Sarana Muslim Sangam Building polling station 100, Colombo Central, Colombo complained to the SPO that Jathika Sama Peramuna candidate Mr. Suhairur Ameed Mohomad Sajid took a photograph of his marked ballot paper. Maligawatta Police has arrested the Mr Sajid.
UPFA candidate Mr. Danasiri Amarathunga and supporters seen around a voting centre, Dehiwala, Colombo
At around 3.40 p.m., UPFA candidate Danasiri Amarathunga and approximately 50 of his supporters were seen around the Pamankada Sangamiththa College voting centre, near the Dehiwala-Pamankada junction.
Voter transportation in Katana, Gampaha
Voters were transported allegedly by UPFA Gampaha District Candidate Mr. Indika Anurudda’s supporters in a vehicle bearing his candidate number 21 at around 11.45 a.m. to the Vidyaloka Primary School 3 polling station.
Threat and intimidation in Katana, Gampha
Former UPFA Katana Urban Council Member, Mr. Attachchi alias Baiya and Weli Thusitha, alias Weli Suji have allegedly threatened and intimidated voters to vote in favor of the UPFA at the Bambuwala Jhon Bastian Vidyalaya polling station 4 from 10.55 am onwards.
Distributers of campaign material arrested in Kalutara
Police officers including S.I Mr. Wickramarachchi of the Kalutara East Police arrested two individuals, namely Rajantha Silva and Roshan De Silva who were distributing election material at the Nagaratnarama junction in Kalutara. The alleged perpetrators were distributing material of candidates Mr. Rajitha Senaratne and Mr. Ajith P. Perera. At the time of the arrest -approximately 9.05 a.m.- the perpetrators had been travelling in a three wheeler number plated WP/HJ 9312. A complaint was filed with the Kalutara East Police (MOIB 76/102)
Person arrested with ballot papers in possession, Mannar electorate, Vanni
It was reported to CMEV that a UNP supporter had 7 ballot papers in his possession. The police arrested him at about 2. 30 p.m. This occurred at the Mau/Kokupridaiyan RCTM school polling station 50, Puthukudiyirrupu.
Providing transportation to voters by a candidate in Passara, Badulla
It was reported to CMEV that UPFA candidate no 6 Chamara Sampath provided transportation facilities to voters in a vehicle plated G5 7519 to the polling stations in the Passara, Medawalagama area at around 8 30 am.
Use of invalid NIC cards in Trincomalee electorate, Trincomalee
CMEV received a complaint about the use of invalid National Identity Cards at Kandiya Arasinal Tamil mixed school (polling station 52)
Use of model ballot paper to influence voters in Muttur, Trincomalee
CMEV received a complaint about the use of a model ballot paper by supporters of UNP candidate Mr. M.S. Thoufik to instruct people to vote for him, near the Muttur Sirajnagar Muslim Vidyalaya polling stations 48 and 49.
Voter using driver’s license was not allowed to vote in Aranayaka, Kegalle
A voter by the name of Mr. D.V. Ranasinghe was not allowed to vote at the Ussapitiya Bodhiraja Vidyalaya polling station 2 using his driver’s license, as the license was declared to be cancelled. However, no such cancellation date was stated on the license.
Person pasting Bills Arrested in Kolonna Electorate, Ratnapura
It was reported to CMEV that an individual named Hewaguluwaduge Chamil Janka was arrested today at 11.00 a.m. by the Embilipitiya Police while the accused was pasting campaign bills pertaining to UPFA Candidate Mrs. Pavithra Wanniarachchi on walls in the vicinity of the Embilipitiya President’s College polling stations (Polling Station Nos. 09, 10, 11).
Distribution of Alcohol for voters at Grenvil Gardens at Maskeliya in Nuwara Eliya District by CWC supporters
It was reported to CMEV that Ceylon Worker’s Congress (CWC) supporters have distributed alcohol to voters before they voted at the Joseph Maha Vidhalaya polling station 182 and 184. The perpetrators have allegedly encouraged the villagers to vote for the CWC party and mark their preferences for CWC Candidates bearing candidate numbers 2 (Mr. Arumugam Thondaman), 9 (Mr. Siwaraj Anusha) and 10 (Mr. Siwalingam Muttu).
Disruption to election monitoring in Madawachchiya, Anuradhapura
A group disturbed CMEV polling centre day observer at the Anuradhapura Kunchuttuwa Vidyalaya polling station 30 saying ‘who are you and who gave you permission to monitor outside the polling center? You can only monitor inside the center’. The group arrived in vehicle number LA-9820 with stickers of UPFA candidate Mr. Thissa Karaliyadda pasted on it.
Download this communique as a PDF here. Download it in Tamil here.
Polling in the Parliamentary Election 2015 commenced at 7 am. According to the reports received by CMEV, as at 11.00 a.m. on 17th August 2015, polling has been steady and without hindrance in most areas of the country. CMEV, however, received some reports of incidents of violations of election laws, details of which are given below.
As at 11.00 a.m., CMEV recorded a total of 126 incidents. Of these, 30 incidents have been categorized as Major Incidents while 96 have been categorized as Minor Incidents. Nine (9) incidents relate to the presence of party supporters in the vicinity of polling stations.
One such report is of UNP supporters at Thambuttegama Thammenagama Community Centre polling station 62 at around 8.00 a.m. at Rajina Junction, Thambuthegama, Anuradhapura District influencing voters in favor of UNP candidates Mr. P. Harison and Mrs. Chadrani Bandara.
CMEV received a number of reports related to the ink used to mark fingers of voters. There were complaints of the ink fading even before voters could cast their votes. A total seven such incidents have been recorded by CMEV from Kurunegala (Polling Stations 25, 26, 27 and 28), Mullathivu (Polling Station 13), Vavuniya (Polling Station 36) and Vanni (Polling Station 85). CMEV has informed the Election Commissioner about these complaints.
It was reported to CMEV that UPFA Vanni district candidate Mr. Udayarasa has pressured voters to vote for him. This incident occurred at the Sidambarapura Nagarosa Vidyalayam polling station73 in Vavuniya electorate, Vanni District.
A CMEV field monitor has been threatened by JVP candidate Mr. Dunuwilage Bandulasena traveling in a vehicle with the JVP symbol, in front of the Pathberiya Narada Maha Vidyalaya polling station 67, Ehaliyagoda, Rathnapura at around 7.30 a.m.
CMEV received a complaint about the lack of privacy in the polling booth – one such complaint was received about the Community Development Centre Hall polling station 31, Badulla Electorate.
CMEV also received a complaint that there was no privacy to cast votes due to the presence of SPO, K.M.G. Samaranayake at the Wattaram Thenna Urban Community Hall Polling Station 16. This incident occurred at around 8.40 a.m., Kandy.
It was reported to CMEV that the CMEV Day Observer has been asked by the SPO to refrain from his monitoring duty at the Galpottawala Thilakashrama Temple Preaching Hall polling centre 32, Ambalangoga. This has occurred at around 8.00 a.m. and the observer has happened to stay away around 25 minutes.
Additionally, there have been reports about unsolicited text messages and the distribution of campaign material in and around polling stations including:
Near the M/Prithukudiyiruppu Government Tamil mixed school polling centre 09, UNP candidate Rishad Badiurdeen’s supporters have scattered campaign material in the area from Konarpanni to Puthukudiyirrupu.
A bulk of calendars and stickers of ITAK Jaffna District candidate Mr. Sritharan have been dumped in the Holy Tamil Convent 10 polling station, Jaffna Town.
Leaflets and other election material of United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) Candidate Mr. R.G. Samaranayake were scattered around the Teldeniya National School polling station 35.
Campaign material (leaflets) depicting UNP candidate Mr. Ashoka Priyantha (No: 4) and UPFA candidate Mr. Dayashritha Thisera (No: 03) are scattered in the vicinity of the Thalvillagala primary school, Thalvillagala polling station – 55, Nattandiya, Puttalam.
Leaflets of UPFA candidate Mr. Chandima Weerakkodi of Akmeemana electorate are scattered about 50m away from Meegoda Sarvamithra Primary school polling station 66, Akmeemana, Galle.
Leaflets with the beetle leaf symbol and marked for UPFA candidates numbers 8 and number 9, Mr. Dumindu Dayasen Ratiyala and Mr. Duminda Dissanayake respectively at St. Joseph’es College Hall Number 1 (49) and Hall number 2 (47).
CMEV deployed a total of approximately 4,000 monitors in the field and in polling stations for the purpose of monitoring incidents of violence and malpractice on Election Day. Further, CMEV has deployed 75 mobile teams in selected areas across the country. Additionally, 90 observers have been placed in 18 Electoral Districts to conduct monitoring inside counting centres, while a team of 21 foreign observers has also been deployed as part of CMEV’s monitoring effort on Election Day.
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:
No. of Arrested Persons
No. of Arrested Persons
*Kurunegala Police Division did not revealed information related to arrests