North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 23rd August 2008 2300 hrs- Media Communiqué No. 7

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

23rd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 7

CMEV deployed stationary observers in 420 polling stations, 11 mobile teams and 28 field monitors in the two provinces. During the course of the day 976 polling stations were visited of the 1768 polling stations in both provinces.

CMEV notes that apart from a few serious incidents and in comparison with previous provincial elections, Polling Day of the elections to the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils was relatively incident free.  The expectations of violence that were based on the incidence of violence in the last three days of the campaign in particular, were fortunately not met.  Accordingly, CMEV acknowledges the positive impact of the announcement by the Election Commissioner that he would order a re-poll in areas where violence and malpractice were confirmed to have occurred, as well as his decision to strengthen law enforcement in the areas that recorded high levels of violence throughout the campaign. Likewise, CMEV also acknowledges the positive impact of the actions of the police in those areas where its presence and commitment was reinforced.

As emphasized in its earlier communiqué of today (Communique 6, August 23, 2008), the effective disenfranchisement of voters on account of them not having the required identity documentation, is a cause for serious concern.  No citizen should be deprived of the fundamental right to exercise franchise. Be it because of a failure of communication or administrative delay, the resulting, effective disenfranchisement of voters has deprived citizens of the right to participate in the basic process of choice and change in a functioning democracy.  This needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.  CMEV strongly urges the Elections Commissioner to initiate an independent inquiry into what transpired and to hold to account officials found to be responsible for this.  We also strongly urge the authorities to take similar action in respect of local officials who are found to be similarly responsible.

CMEV has supported the mandatory use of the National Identity Card (NIC) for voter identification, but reiterated that its use for this purpose should not result in the deprivation of fundamental rights and to the disadvantage of citizens.  Consequently, we repeat our call for the expediting of the issue of NICs.  The prospect of further elections in the near future, underscores the importance and urgency of this.

In this context, CMEV also repeats it call for the full implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of independent commissions for elections and the police – an issue which the constituent organizations of CMEV have, and continue to lobby and litigate on.

In the course of these elections, CMEV also monitored the media coverage of the election campaign.  We found that in the case of both the print and electronic media, state controlled media organs were comprehensively biased in favour of the ruling coalition.  The private print media organs were also found to exhibit partisan bias.  CMEV calls on the Commissioner, to issue guidelines to the media, even during provincial elections and reminds the state media in particular, of a primary obligation to serve the public interest. We call upon all media organs to observe internationally recognized guidelines for reporting during elections.

An illustrative sample of the incidents of violence and malpractice reported by CMEV monitors is provided below.

Assault of a polling agent and parliamentarian
At least four JVP supporters were assaulted near the Galthamburawa Junior School (Polling Station 92) in the Polonnaruwa Electorate.  One of the assaulted included JVP candidate Chandraratna Kumara.  JVP parliamentarian S.K Subasinghe who rushed to the scene was instructed to report to the nearest police station. While Mr. Subasinghe was enroute to the station, he was pulled over by a gang of UPFA supporters and attacked. Mr. Subasinghe and three of his supporters sustained injuries. They were all admitted to the hospital with injuries.  The JVP has alleged that the attackers were supporters of Minister Maithripala Sirisena’s brother, Chaminda Sirisena, a UPFA provincial council candidate for the North Central Province. This incident, which occurred at around 4.45 p.m, was reported to CMEV by the JVP.

Two children hurt in attack on UNP candidate
A vehicle belonging to UNP provincial candidate G.P.K Kumara Nelson was stoned near the Bandiweva Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 71), Jayanthipura, Polonnaruwa Electorate, Polomaruwa District. Two children who were by the road side were injured during the course of the attack and were admitted to the Polonnaruwa hospital. They alleged that UPFA persons had stoned the vehicle.

Election monitor assaulted in Kegalle
A monitor connected to the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) was assaulted by supporters of UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate Mahipala Herath near the Walpola Junior School (No. 15) in Rambukkana. The mob had used a T- 56 rifle to carry out their attack. The victim, Sampath Kumara, was admitted to the Kegalle Hospital.

Threat and intimidation of candidates, polling agents and supporters
Prabath Weerawansa, son of the UPFA former minister G. Weerawansa, had threatened to kill National People’s Party Polling Agent Senaka Chandana at the Polling Station at the Olambawa Community Hall (Polling Station 13), in the Kekirawa Electorate, in the Anuradhapura District. At the same Polling Station, Prabath Weerawansa and his supporters had also damaged the vehicle of Priyaranjana Rathnayake, a National People’s Party candidate.

In Wiyeyaramaya Polling Station (Polling Station 11) in Kalaweva Electorate, Anuradhapura District, a UPFA Rajangana Pradeshiya Sabha representative D.M. Wimarshana Prabath Vithana threatened a UNP supporter named P. Sampath Rajindra.

Voter intimidation
Two separate incidents of voter intimidation were reported from Wee-Oya Junior School (Polling Station 29) and Malalpola Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 18 ) both in the Yatiyantota Electorate, Kegalle District. In both incidents unidentified persons who drove in Defender Jeeps had shot into the air. CMEV was informed by the Senior Presiding Officers in both stations that they had not witnessed the incidents but had heard gunshots. CMEV was informed that other Polling Officers had witnessed the incidents. It was also reported that police officers were witnesses to the incident but had not taken any action.

A JVP supporter reported to the CMEV an incident at the Aralaganwila Ruhunagama Veeralanda Junior School (Polling Station 7), in Polonnaruwa Electorate, where UPFA supporters threatened JVP supporters.

In R/Udugala Vidyalaya (Polling Station 17) and R/Pimbura Vidyalaya (Polling Station 19) in the Kalawana Electorate in the Ratnapura District, UPFA candidate Lambert Bandara and his supporters threatened and intimidated voters.

Voter Impersonation
It was reported that 12 persons attempted to cast their votes at 9.40 a.m. at the A/Heambawewa Junior Secondary School (Polling Station 29), Anurdhapura West Electorate, Anurdhapura District using false identification.

At Sumanagala Vidyalaya (Polling Station 28 ) in the Anuradhapure West Electorate, a farmer named R.M Ratnayake was not allowed to vote as the SPO informed him that his vote had already been cast.  He was told that his vote had been cast via a postal vote by an army officer of the same name. The application to file this vote was requested by Maj. Gen. M.J.K Jayapriya, commander of the Kavachikkuda army camp.

Voter transportation in Mihintale

UNP provincial council candidate H.M Prasanna Sugath Herath transported voters to the A/Ganthiriyagama Maha Vidyalaya (Polling station 42), in the Mihintale Electorate, Anurdhapura District. He used a white Tipper vehicle bearing license plate number 48-5961 for this purpose.

Damage to property

Supporters of Chief Minister candidate of UPFA in Sabaragamuwa Province, Maheepala Herath who had arrived in seven vehicles and attacked a cab bearing the number plate 56-2218 belonging to the JVP in front of the in Pinnawala Central College (Polling Station  27), Rambukkana, Kegalle District.

Inability to vote due to lack of proper documentation

CMEV has reported that a number of voters both in the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces were deprived of their right to vote because of the lack of appropriate identity documents. CMEV spoke to the National Organiser of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), Mr. Yogarajan who stated that out of approximate 95,000 Upcountry Tamils who are registered voters in the Sabaragamuwa Province 10% were unable to cast their vote because of this. CMEV has also received reports from its monitors and political parties of other incidents of this nature, suggesting that the overall figure in both provinces of those who were effectively disenfranchised could be high. As at the close of polls, CMEV had received reports of over 570 persons being so deprived in the areas of Dedigama, Deraniyagala, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kolonna, Mawanella, Rambukkana, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota in the Sabaragamuwa Province and Anuradhapura West, Horowapathana, Kekirawa, Medawachchiya, Polonnaruwa in the NCP.

According to a notice issued by the Election Commissioner on 16th July 2008, eight forms of identification were listed as accepted documentation for voting. A clear procedure was set out in the above notice which provides alternatives for those who lack any of the eight forms of identification.

Some of the incidents encountered were:

Sabaragamuwa

The majority of incidents reported to CMEV regarding the lack of proper documentation were made in the Kegalle District. In the Kegalle Electorate at the Hettimulla Bandaranaike M.V, 40 persons were not allowed to cast their votes as the SPO did not recognize the identification presented by the voters, which was authorized by the Grama Sevaka. A similar incident has been reported in the Ambuwangala Junior School (Polling Station  44) Rambukkana Electorate, Kegalle District.  10 persons were denied permission to vote in this instance. As the SPO was unable to recognize their IDs as valid, 15 persons were turned away from the Polling Station at the Hinguralakanda Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 36) in the Deraniyagala Electorate, Kegalle District. At Deewala Maha Vidyalala, Hall number 1 and 2 (Polling Stations 6 and 7) in the Kegalle Electorate, 36 voters were turned away due to ID issues. In the Kegalle District, in the Mawanella Electorate, 20 voters were turned away from Udamakadawara Junior School Hall Number 1 (Polling Station 20) as the SPO was unable to verify their identification. In two different polling stations in the Ruvanwella Electorate, Kegalle District voters were turned away. Also in the Ruvanwella Electorate, the Anguruwella Pre School (Polling Station 33) 3 persons were turned back at 7 45 am and at the Gonagala North Kanishta Vidyalala (Polling Station 24), 5 persons were turned back at 8 am.

CMEV received reports of differing standards being used in neighbouring polling stations. For example, there were reports of persons being able to vote without the requisite documentation in the Garagoda Muslim Vidayalaya (No 10) in Yatiyantota Electorate, Kegalle District. In contrast, persons were not allowed to vote in the nearby Panawatta Tamil Vidyalaya (No12) due to the lack of proper documentation.

CMEV monitors also received complaints from the Rathnapura Districts. In the Eheliyagoda Electorate of Ratnapura District at the Minnawa Sri Muchalindaramaya Polling Station (Polling Station 07), a large number of persons were turned away from the Polling booth due to the lack of National Identity cards.

North Central Province

There were a few incidents of voters not being allowed to vote in the North Central Province, particularly from Anurdhapura District. In the Anuradhapura Morahewa Vidyalaya (Polling Station 10), Horowpothana Electorate, Anuradhapura District, between 7:00am to 1:20 pm, CMEV monitor reported that about 100 voters were sent back by the SPO because they did not have a proper ID card and thus were unable to vote. In the Adampane Sudharshana Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 04), Anurahapura West Electorate, four voters had turned up without any of the eight forms of identification, but with the Grama Seveka certification. The Senior Presiding Office did not, however permit them to vote. Five persons have turned up without Identity Cards but with GS certification to vote at the Maha Bulankualama Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Station 54), Anuradhapura West Electorate, Anuradhapura District but the Senior Presiding Officer has not permitted them to vote. Eight persons were not allowed to cast their votes because the Senior Presiding Officer has refused them permission to vote because the IDs that they presented were a form of identification authorized only by the Grama Sevaka. This incident occurred in at the Anuradhapura Maha Bulankulama Vidyalaya (Polling Station 54), Anurdhapura West at 9.10am. Approximately 25 voters were sent back between 7:00am and 1:50pm,by the Senior Polling Officer at the Anuradhapura Moragahadigiliya Viduhala (Polling Station 07), Horowpothana Electorate, Anuradhapura District reportedly due lack of identity cards.

In Yodhaela Maha Vidayalaya (Polling Station 50) in Minneriya, Polonnaruwa District the JVP complained that persons were able to vote with a document attested by the GS. At the Yodhaela Maha Vidyalaya Polling station, Mineriya Electorate, Polannaruwa District, voters were allowed to use a letter issued by the GS as formal identification. However, at polling stations in some of the other polling stations, the Senior Polling Officers refused to recognize such a letter.

Continuation of campaigning on Election Day

In the Ruwanwella Electorate, Kegalle District, Kananthota Suleimaniya Muslim Vidyalaya (No.38)at 9 .05 am, supporters of Nihal Farook (UNP) had been seen  near the polling station  telling voters to vote for Nihal Farook.

A large numbers of leaflets and posters of UPFA Chief Minister Candidate Mahipala Herath were distributed at Polling stations Kalugala Rural Development Society Hall (Polling Station 1), Puwakdeniya Junior School (Polling Station 3), Beragala Junior School (Polling Station 22) and Paragammana Dharamapala Junior School (Polling Station 26) in the Kegalle Electorate, Kegalle District.

Supporters of UPFA Chief Minister candidate Bertie Premalal Dissanayake and UPFA candidate Udaya Nalin Wijeyaratne were seen distributing small cards bearing their names and candidate numbers to voters. This incident occurred around 10am within 200 metres of the Kidavarampulam Vidyalaya (Polling Station 50), in Madawachchiya in the Anuradhapura District.

The leaflets bearing the details of candidate no. 22, Dushmantha Mithrapala of UPFA, have been spotted near the polling station in Deraniyagala Junior School (Polling Station 22) in Deraniyagala Electorate, Kegalle District.

Distribution of election related materials

In the Pollonaruwa District, at the Sarvodaya District Center (Polling Station 83), in New Town Pollonnaruwa, UPFA candidate Peshala Jayaratne’s supporters distributed election related materials using a trishaw bearing number plate QC- 8870.

Restriction of access to the Polling Station

In the Dereniyagla Electorate of Kegelle District, Sabaragamuwa Province, near the Basnagala Polling Station (Polling Station 04), obstruction of road access to the polling station had been engineered by cutting and placing of two trees on the road.

Monitor obstructed from entry

A CMEV stationary monitor was denied entry into a polling station by the SPO at A/Ganthiriyagama Maha Vidyalaya (Polling Station 42), Mihinthale Electorate, Anuradhapura District. After speaking with the police, and a further delay of 15 minutes, the monitor was allowed inside.

CMEV monitor reprimanded by SPO

In the Anuradhapura East Electorate, at the D.S. Senanayake School (Polling Station 39), the CMEV stationary monitor was reprimanded by the SPO. The polling officer had also refused to sign the CMEV personnel’s monitoring sheet.

UPFA complains of bias

CMEV has received a complaint from the UPFA that at the Kadawathmaduwa Dharmapala Junior School (Polling Station 63), Polonnaruwa Electorate, that the SPO and his staff were biased toward the UNP supporters.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 23rd August 2008 18.30 hrs – Media Communiqué No 6

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

23rd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 6

On Election Day CMEV has received 42 complaints of election related violence of which 27 have been classified as major incidents. These include seizing of polling cards, threat and intimidation of voters, shootings near polling centers, chasing away of polling agents, assault and threats to election monitors and party supporters.

Of particular concern are reports that a number of voters both in the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces were deprived of their right to vote because of the lack of appropriate identity documents. CMEV spoke to the National Organiser of the the CWC, Mr. Yogarajan who stated that out of approximate 95,000 Upcountry Tamils who are registered voters in the Sabaragamuwa Province 10% were unable to cast their vote because of this. CMEV has also received reports from its monitors and political parties of other incidents of this nature, suggesting that the overall figure in both provinces of those who were effectively disenfranchised could be high. As at the close of polls, CMEV had received reports of over 570 persons being so deprived in the areas of Dedigama, Deraniyagala, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kolonna, Mawanella, Rambukkana, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota in the Sabaragamuwa Province and Anuradhapura West, Horowapathana, Kekirawa, Medawachchiya, Polonnaruwa in the NCP.

According to a notice issued by the Election Commissioner on 16th July 2008, eight forms of identification were listed as accepted documentation for voting. A clear procedure was set out in the above notice which provides alternatives for those who lack any of the eight forms of identification.

Whilst CMEV has supported the use of national ID cards as mandatory for the purpose of voter identification, it has always maintained that this should not be implemented to the detriment of any voters. Whilst we recognize that interim measures were devised and publicized, the scale of effective disenfranchisement clearly demonstrate the need for more proactive dissemination of information amongst citizens and effective communication of these procedural requirements to the relevant government officials.

We therefore call upon the Election Commissioner to conduct an independent investigation in to what has transpired at these elections and to take all necessary steps to ensure that officials are aware of these requirements in the event that they have to be resorted to in the future. It is imperative that officials found responsible for what is clearly a violation of a fundamental right are held to account. We also strongly urge the authorities to expedite the issue of outstanding ID cards.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 23rd August 2008 09.30hrs – Media Communiqué No 5

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

23rd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 5

CMEV monitors report tension on the ground in certain polling divisions in the two provinces.  Of particular concern are reports from monitors identifying government ministers engaging in voter intimidation.  CMEV condemns the involvement of Ministers in violation of the Elections law and calls upon the government to act immediately to stop this.

CMEV monitors report that the brother of UNP member Upul Bandara and a person named Roshan, have been assaulted by a group of people led by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. The Minister and his retinue are currently in the vicinity of the Zahira College polling station (No.33 and 34) in the Mawanela electorate, Kegalle district, threatening and intimidating UNP voters. CMEV monitors further report that they are traveling in six vehicles, none of which have license plates.

In the Balangoda electorate of Sabaragamuwa, at No. 13 Balangoda CC M.V (Tamil), it is alleged that Minister Jagath Pushpakumara and his supporters have snatched the polling cards of JVP supporters. They are also allegedly threatening voters arriving at the polling station. This was reported to CMEV by its mobile team in Balangoda.

In the Polonnaruwa electorate, at the Nuwaragala Pihitigala polling station (No. 10), the chairman of the Dehiyattiyakanda Pradeshiya Sabha and Upali Rajakaruna representative of the Dimbulagala PS have been seen travelling around the town area intimidating UNP supporters and preventing them from voting.  Mr. Henrik Appuhamy, a former UNP PS representative, reported this to CMEV.

There are a number of other major incidents, which militate against the conduct of a free and fair election.

Inability to prove identity
It was reported to CMEV that 10 persons who came to vote have been sent away by the SPO of A/ Sinhala Kakulbendidigiliya (No.2) in Horowpathana electorate of Anuradhapura district at about 9.00am, because they could not prove their identity. These persons did not even have temporary identification documents.

In the Anuradhapura West electorate, at polling station number 04 Adampanai Sudharsha M.V, four persons have been prevented from exercising their franchise as the SPO refused to recognise their identity cards.

Fraudulent Voting

One incident of fraudulent voting is reported from Polonnaruwa electorate from R.K. Indrananda, the Group Leader of JVP in Polonnaruwa. A person named K. P. Kumarasiri has allegedly voted in two Polling Stations namely, Dharma Wijayarama Polling Station (No. 33) and Girithale Junior School (No.35).

Chasing away of voters

Mr. Thushara Karunaratne of JVP reported to CMEV monitor that the supporters of Mangala Master of UPFA, armed with guns, chased away the people who came to vote at about 0630 to  Palliyagodella Muslim Junior School (No.33) in Polonnaruwa.

Opposition Polling Agents chased away from Horowpathana polling Station
At 7.40 am today, in Horowpathana, Anuradhapura district, UNP polling agents were chased away from the A/Mukkarawewa Vidyalaya Polling Station (No.06) by the Horowpathan Pradeshiya Sabha chairman, A.R.M Hussein.  The incident was reported to CMEV by UNP leader P. Saheel.

Campaigning continues in Nadola although polling has begun
Posters bearing the numbers of two UPFA candidates were spotted within 500 metres of the Nadolakanda Vidyalaya (No 71) polling station, in the Ratnapura district. The two candidates concerned are UPFA candidates Ravindra Ranaveeraarachchi and Vijitha Punchihewa.

Posters and hoardings still displayed in Ratnapura
A similar incident has been reported nearby the Seevali Counting Centre in Ratnapura town where posters and hoardings of candidates from all parties are still seen prominently displayed.

In the Minneriya Electorate of Polonnaruwa, NC Prov, near Bakamuma Mahasen Central Collage, Lionel Samarasekara of JVP complained about the display of UPFA election posters and materials continuing on Election Day.

Field reports indicate that the supporters of Mr. Imitias Cader, candidate No.05 of UPFA were travelling around the polling station Beragala Junior School in Kegalle, in a white Caravan bearing the no. 52- 1995, pasting posters, at about 7.00 am.

CMEV monitor Herath reports that there were campaign leaflets of Mr. Maheepala Herath, the UPFA Chief Minister candidate to be seen around the polling station – Elengipitiya Junior School  in Aranayake at about 7.40 am.
CMEV draws attention to the above violations of election law.  The continuation of campaigning beyond midnight, August 20th is contrary to clause 70 of the PC Elections Act no 2 of 1988.  The use of violence and the abuse of state resources is a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process.  CMEV calls on the authorities to call a halt to this, even at this late stage in the current electoral process.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

Election Day violence map and RSS feed now live!

A map plotting violence and other incidents related to the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Province Elections on 23 August 2008 is now live. Please access it directly here and access the map of violence in the lead up to this election here.

Incidents will be added throughout the day. Please check often or subscribe to the map’s RSS feed here.

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections 22nd August 2008 – Media Communiqué No 4

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections
22nd  August 2008 – Media Communiqué No 4

Prior to the commencement of polling on August 23rd, 2008, CMEV reports a tense situation prevailing in many areas in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

August 20, 2008
It has been alleged by the JVP that two vehicles, one belonging to the Presidential Secretariat and the other belonging to UPFA candidate Udayakantha Gunathileke, were seen carrying what seemed to be polling cards in Nelumdeniya area of the Dedigama electorate, Kegalle. Although the police had checked on this, “they have taken no action to date” said Mr. Mahinda Jayasinghe. CMEV received this complaint on the evening of August 22nd, 2008.

BREACH OF ELECTION LAWS
August 21, 2008

It was reported to the CMEV by the JVP team leader Mahinda Jayasinghe that he had complaint to Kegalle police that in the residence of Vijitha Yapa, of 72, Albert Seneviratne Mawatha in Kegalle, arms, weapons and fraudulent ballot papers were observed. It was stated that the presences of these papers were reported to the police by the JVP Kegalle District parliamentarian Anurudhdha Polgampola. The police had subsequently removed these items from the house.  It was further reported that in the areas of Rambukkana, Kegalle, Deraniyagala and Dedigama of the Sambaragamuwa Province, unofficial ballot papers have been distributed by alleged UPFA supporters. This incident also was reported to CMEV by the JVP team leader Mahinda Jayasinghe. When CMEV contacted Kegalle police regarding this incident they were informed that when the police arrived at the residence of Albert Seneviratne no such weapons and fraudulent ballot papers were found.

MISUSE OF STATE RESOURCES
August 22, 2008

It has been alleged that at about 2.00 am, 10 ballot boxes were transported to the offices of the former Chief Minister of the North Central Province and now UPFA candidate, Bertie Premalal Dissanayake. It has been alleged that he is continuing to use these premises for election campaigning. This complaint was made by UNP election candidate Major General Janaka Perera. He is reported to have also informed The Returning Officer- Anuradhapura, Deputy Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya and the Election Commissioner at the Election Secretariat in Rajagiriya. CMEV was unable to reach Assistant Election Commissioner Anuradhapura Saman Bandula Gunasena in order to verify this report.
In the Ruwanwella electorate, Minister of Labour Relations and Manpower Athauda Seneviratne and his son, Parakrama Athauda was seen using double cabs belonging to the Ministry for campaigning purposes. The vehicle numbers were:  GJ-5818, a red colored cab and 57- 6598, an ash colored cab.

According to the CMEV Monitor, Dushmanthya Mithrapala, a UPFA candidate for the Sabaragamuwa province was also seen using a cab belonging to the same Ministry. The number of the vehicle was WPGA- 8170. This particular vehicle was observed been used for election campaign purposes in the area of Bulathkohupitiya in the Yatiyanthota electorate.

At around 10.30 am, a vehicle belonging to UNP candidate Hasitha Samantha was alleged to have been damaged by members of the UPFA, who had arrived at the scene in two white HI-ACE vans, the two occupants of the UNP vehicle were on route to Rakwana town when their vehicle was supposed to have been blocked at Kalubangalawa. Both persons sustained minor injuries and were admitted to the Rakwana Hospital. The UPFA supporters who carried out the alleged attack were also injured and were then admitted to the Kahawatte Hospital. He was concerned about the fact that the police had taken his vehicle into custody, whereas the vehicle belonging to the governing party was released. He also claimed that shots were fired into the air during the “attack”. He further stated that hundreds of people who have not been seen before in Ratnapura district have amassed in various areas close to the town area. He fears that such unscrupulous persons may be used to intimidate citizens and impersonate voters at tomorrow’s elections.

In accordance with election regulations, the police in the Ratnapura town area were observed to be systematically tearing down any and all election related material including posters, banners and hoardings. Supporters of the JVP, meanwhile, continue to put up campaign posters even now, according to CMEV monitors. Supporters from all political parties have been seen riding around town on bicycles distributing leaflets bearing photographs and candidate numbers.  These leaflets have been dropped in front of polling stations and bus stands.

According to an eyewitness, Cyril Gamage, a Pradeshiya Sabha MP of UPFA from Kekirawa threw a burning stick at a local food outlet in the Madaatugama bazaar. This particular establishment was made out of cadjan and therefore was completely guttered in the fire. This incident occurred approximately at 1.30 this morning. The police investigation is ongoing.

The CMEV would like to draw attention the fact in the above instances that election law has been violated. Namely continuous campaigning when the campaigning period should have ceased by the 20th midnight, which is contrary to clause 70 of the PC Elections Act no 2 of 1988 and the misuse of state resources and also creates an imbalanced playing field where the governing party has access to more resources than the other political parties and independent groups.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 21st August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 3

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

21st August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 3

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence [CMEV] has commenced its monitoring of the Provincial Council Elections in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. CMEV has deployed 28 field monitors, whilst a further 450 day observers and 12 mobile teams have been trained for the process of Election Day monitoring in the 27 polling divisions of the two provinces.

A total number of 218 incidents have been reported to the CMEV since the close of nominations on the 04/07/08 up to 20/08/08.

Total number of incidents. Click for larger image.

Total number of incidents. Click for larger image.

Of these, 104 have been classified as Major incidents and the remaining 114 have been classified as Minor incidents.

Of the total number of incidents recorded, 118 are reported from the NCP. Of these, 86 are from the Anuradhapura district and 32 are from the Polonnaruwa district. The Sabaragamuwa Province records a total number of 100 incidents 56 from the Rathnapura district and 44 from the Kegalle district.

Of the 86 incidents recorded from Anuradhapura, 37 are Major incidents and 49 are Minor incidents. Of the cumulative number of incidents recorded from Anuradhapura district, the highest number of incidents (19) has been recorded from the Kalawewa electorate.

Of the 32 incidents recorded from Polonnaruwa, 18 are Major incidents and 14 are Minor incidents). Of the cumulative number of incidents recorded from Polonnaruwa district, the highest number of incidents (19) has been recorded from the Polonnaruwa electorate.

Of the incidents recorded (56) from Ratnapura, 27 are Major incidents and 29 are Minor incidents. Of the cumulative number of incidents recorded from Ratnapura district, the highest number of incidents (13) has been recorded from the Kolonna electorate.

Of the incidents recorded (44) from the Kegalle, 22 are Major incidents and 22 are Minor incidents. Of the cumulative number of incidents recorded from the Kegalle district, the highest number of incidents (20) has been recorded from the Kegalle electorate.

Of the total number of incidents recorded so far, 115 complaints are against the UPFA, 35 complaints are against the UNP, 04 are against JVP, 1 is against National Congress, 2 are against Police and in 61 incidents, the alleged perpetrators have not been identified.

Of the 34 incidents reported from the Anuradhapura district against the UPFA, 4 are against the supporters of Berty Premalal Dissanayake. Of the 18 incidents reported from the Polonnaruwa district against the UPFA, S.M. Jayantha, Adam Lebbe Fais and D.S. Dayawanse, each has become liable for 1 incident. Of the 7 incidents reported against UNP, UNP candidate Sydney Jayaratne is identified as the alleged perpetrator in 1 incident. Of the 30 number of incidents reported from the Ratnapura district against the UPFA, 4 are against the supporters of their candidate Premalal Jayasekara, including 1 directly naming him. Likewise, there are 4 are against the supporters of Kanchana Jayaratne another UPFA candidte. Of the 11 incidents reported against the UNP, 1 complaint is against the supporters of UNP candidate, Hasitha Samantha. Of the 33 incidents reported from the Kegalle district against the UPFA, 7 are against the supporters of Maheepala Herath, 3 are against Imitias Cader and 2 are against the supporters of Saman Jayasinghe. Imitias Cader and Saman Jayasinghe are UPFA candidates.

Incidents by District. Click for larger image.

Incidents by District. Click for larger image.

In the cumulative total mentioned above, there are 3 complaints by the UPFA against the UPFA, which implies that there are internal conflicts within the Party. The UNP has also made 46 complaints against the UPFA while the JVP has made 52 complaints. Furthermore, Ruhunu Janatha Party (RJP) has made 4 complaints in addition to the 2 complaints made by the CWC. Moreover, CMEV monitors directly reported 5 complaints against the UPFA while the Police has made 1 complaint. There are 2 complaints by unidentified groups against the UPFA. Among the total number of complaints made against the UNP, there are 30 complaints by the UPFA, 4 complaints by the JVP and 1 complaint by the CWC. There were only 4 complaints against JVP. All of them were made by UPFA. In addition, there were 59 complaints in which the party of the alleged perpetrator has not been identified.

The complaints made by the 3 major political parties- UPFA, UNP, JVP, can be classified as follows:

Breakdown of complaints. Click for larger image.

Breakdown of complaints. Click for larger image.

On account of the grave nature of incidents that have occurred up to 20th August 2008 at 5.00pm, the following incidents highlighted below require the immediate attention of all parties concerned especially the Commissioner of Elections, Senior DIG, Elections and the IGP etc.

Alleged Perpertrators. Click for larger image.

Alleged Perpetrators. Click for larger image.

Use of Firearms

CMEV observes that there is a rising trend in the use of firearms. Firearms have been used in 23 incidents that were reported or 10.5% of the cumulative total. CMEV emphasizes that this is a cause for concern. In 8 incidents, firearms have allegedly been used by the UPFA and in 2 incidents by the UNP. The JVP has not been involved in any incident in which firearms have been used. In fact, there are 13 incidents in which the firearms have been allegedly used by persons whose party affiliation is not known.

Misuse of State Resources for election campaign

Of the cumulative incidents ( 218 ) recorded, there are 8 complaints regarding the flagrant misuse of State property (all the facilities including vehicles belonging to the Provincial Councils, Chief Ministers’ Offices and official residences, telephones). All complaints are against the former UPFA Chief Ministers who are standing for re- election.

Issuance of temporary Identity Cards

CMEV believes that the step taken by the Commissioner of Elections to certify identification of voters is a positive and a progressive step towards ensuring a free and fair election, since it would reduce the instances of fraudulent voting. However, this has not been a total success.

In Monarathenna of Welikanda, a person who did not like to reveal his identity stated to CMEV that, a considerable number of voters have not received their identity cards or the certified identification documents (e.g. a certified photograph )as on the date of 20th August. In this situation, some candidates have provided photographs at their own expense. In an interview with Assistant Election Commissioner, Mr. W.H.R. Udaya Kumara in the Polonnaruwa district, a programme for the issue of temporary identification documents has been implemented on the advice of the Commissioner of Elections and about 8000 people have received them. He further stated that it was conducted until 20/08/08. However, he stated that he does not have any statistics of those who did not receive identification documents.

Police Bias

CMEV strongly believes that the partisan bias of the Police in some electorates militates against the conduct of a free and fair election. This factor will be crucial particularly in the Anuradhapura district. Mr. Ruchira Weliwatte, Magistrate and District Judge of A’pura has observed that the main reason behind the increasing violence in A’ pura is the inefficiency of the Police. He has ordered DIG K.P. Pathirana NCP range and SSP H.P. Ilangasiri of the A’pura Police division to tighten the security of the city, immediately and directly supervise the operation.

Apart from A’pura district, Polonnaruwa electorate of the Polonnaruwa district, the Rambukkana and Kegalle electorates of Kegalle district may also be prone to Police malpractices, which would give rise to the fraudulent voting. The UNP and JVP have already informed the Commissioner of Elections and the IGP about this issue.

Summary of the observations- Pre- election period

CMEV emphasizes that there is a rapid increase in the election violence as a consequence of the:

The complaints made by the 3 major political parties- UPFA, UNP, JVP, can be classified as follows:

  • Infringement of the laws relating to the election campaign by the two main political parties, UNP and UPFA
  • Political bias of the Police
  • Competition within the UPFA for preferential votes in order to be appointed Chief Minister in the NCP
  • The targeting of the JVP by the UPFA in Polonnaruwa electorate of the Polnnaruwa district
  • Violent behaviour of Mr. Maheepala Herath, former CM of Sabaragamuwa particularly in  Rambukkana, Kegalle and Mawanella electorates

The presence of TMVP cadres in the Polonnaruwa district is also a cause for concern.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

Download a copy of this press release in Sinhala here, in Tamil here and in English here.

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections – 20th August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 2

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

20th August 2008 – Media Communiqué No. 2

In the last 24 hours of the election campaign period of North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections, there were 9 grave incidents of election related violence reported to CMEV from Anuradhapura District.

Of these, 5 were reported from Anuradhapura East electorate, 3 from the Kekirawa electorate and 1 from the Kalawawa electorate.

Electorate: Anuradhapura East

Arson 20th August, 2008 / 01:50Hrs
A gang, assumed to be supporters of Berti Pramalal Dissanayake, UPFA candidate for the Anuradhapura District, opened fire on a house belonging to Hettiarachchlage Prasanna Lakshan and damaged a car (Toyota Corrolla) parked at the house.

Arson 20th August, 2008 / 03:15Hrs
A double cab (40-2405) and a van (57-3703) owned by M.M. Anoordeen, UNP candidate for the Anuradhapura District was set ablaze allegedly by supporters of the UPFA in the Kanadara Katukeliyawa area. The assailants also fired several shots towards the house of Mr. M.M Anoordeen’s father-in-law using an automatic rifle.

Assault and damage to property 20th August 20, 2008 / 12:10Hrs
UPFA supporters Prassanna Bassnayake and Raja Basnayake allegedly damaged a house and vehicle belonging to a UNP supporter, Mayurapani Vimal Thusara, while another UNP supporter was attacked with a sword at the same location. The attackers later fled the scene, leaving behind a motorbike with registration number #NC HP 1442.

Damage to Property 20th August, 2008 / 12:30Hrs
Supporters of the UPFA North Central Ministerial Candidate Berty Premalal Dissanayake attacked and caused damage to a house belonging to Kasthuri Anuradhanayake, a Legal Officer for the UNP in the Anuradhapura District.

Arson on property of Dr. John Pulle -20th August 2008, 17:00Hrs
A group of alleged UPFA supporters damaged and set fire to a UNP Party office located at Harischandra Mw, Anuradhapura along with a house and dispensary belonging to Dr. John Pulle ,who is also the Anuradhapura District Coordinator of UNP. Three vehicles (65-1782, HB- 7797, KD 9191) were also set ablaze by the same group at the premises.

Kalawewa 20th August, 2008 / 12:30Hrs
Ajantha Wasala Bandara, Secretary of Dumindha Dissanayake, a UPFA MP for the Anuradhapura District sustained injuries due to gunshots fired by an unknown gang of people travelling in a blue colored van. It is also alleged that the assailants threw a petrol bomb at the vehicle of the victim.

Kekirawa 20th August 2008 /09:30Hrs
UPFA supporters, D. Sampath and Jayatissa, allegedly damaged the vehicle of Ashoka Gunasiri, UNP candidate for the Anuradhapura District and went on to threaten him with a handgun. H.D. Shantha, a supporter of Ashoka Gunasiri also sustained injuries during the incident.

Kekirawa  20th August 2008 /09:30Hrs
A group of alleged UPFA supporters led by Sooriya Walpola attacked and damaged a party office of the UNP in Kekirawa and damaged a van (59-4264) and a double-cab (NC HA 6374) owned by UNP candidate Sunil Dissanayake.

Kekierawa 20th, August 2008 /15:15Hrs
Group of individuals, suspected to be supporters of UPFA Chief Ministerial Candidate Berty Premalal, opened fire on a house in Kekirawa belonging to UNP supporter K.V Abeysingha, damaging a vehicle (253-1495) in the process.

Kekirawa 20th, August 2008 / 10.15Hrs
A group of alleged UNP supporters attacked and damaged a party office of Mr. Gamage Weerasena, a UPFA candidate, in Maradankadawala

It is reported to CMEV that all incidents, except the damage caused to the office of Mr.Weerasena Gamage who is a UPFA candidate for North Central Province, are allegedly committed by the UPFA against the UNP.

The supporters of Mr. Berty Premalal Disanayake, the UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate, have been identified as the perpetrators of 3 of these incidents. CMEV believes that the increasing violence in Anuradhapura District is a crucial factor which militates against the conduct of a free and fair election. We there urgently request the IGP and all other responsible officials to take all measures to ensure a free and fair election.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

Maps of election violence in the lead-up to North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections in Sri Lanka

Sabaragamuwa and North Central Province elections violence

Sabaragamuwa and North Central Province elections violence

A map of elections related violence in the lead up to the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council elections is now live.

Click here to access the map directly.

Click here to access other maps by CMEV of elections in the past.

13th August 2008 – Media Communiqué No 01 – North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

CMEV

North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Elections

13th August 2008 – Media Communiqué No 01

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence [CMEV] has commenced its monitoring of the Provincial Council Elections in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.  CMEV has deployed 27 field monitors in the 27 polling divisions of the two provinces and informed political parties, election officials, police and the civil society of their presence. All reports of election related violence and malpractice will be sent to the CMEV Secretariat in Colombo for further corroboration before public release.

A total of 101 incidents have been recorded by CMEV since the close of nominations on the 4th July 2008 up to 11th August 2008. Of these 54 have been classified as major incidents and the remaining 47 as minor incidents. The highest number of major incidents was recorded in the Anuradhapura District [19] followed by Ratnapura [13], Kegalle [09] and Polonnaruwa [13] respectively. Of the minor incidents logged by CMEV, Anuradhapura leads district-wise [19]. Apart from two attempted murders in the Ratnapura and Anuradhapura districts, the highest number of major incidents in terms of assault and robbery were also recorded in Anuradhapura district. This clearly indicates that in terms of overall incidents of election related violence it is the most tense of the four districts.

Of the incidents recorded so far, 52 complaints are against UPFA, 21 complaints are against UNP and 3 complaints are against JVP. In 24 complaints the party affiliation of the alleged perpetrators was not identified. The highest number of complaints was reported so far by JVP [37], followed by UNP [29] and UPFA [28]. Of the number of complaints by the JVP, 25 were against the UPFA and only 2 complaints against the UNP.

CMEV notes that the level of violence across the campaign has steadily increased as the election draws nearer. Pre-election violence recorded by CMEV since the close of nominations on 4th July is as follows:

Postal Votes
A postal vote of upcoming elections was held on 7th and 8th August 2008 at 941 polling centres in both provinces, of which CMEV monitors observed 136 polling centres.

Apart from two major incidents reported in Kuruwita and Aralaganwila, CMEV notes that the postal vote was held in a free and fair manner in the polling divisions it monitored.

However, there were two major incidents reported from Kuruwita of Ratnapura District and from Aralaganwila of Polonnaruwa district. In Kuruwita Police Station, 29 Police officers were not given the opportunity to cast their postal votes. They had not received ballot papers on time. When CMEV contacted the RO of the Ratnapura District he said that this was on account of a technical error. He went on to note that their right to vote could be met only through the allocation of their duty stations closer to their respective polling booths. The postal vote of the Agrarian Centre in Aralaganwila, Polonnnaruwa was held before the scheduled date. The RO Polonnaruwa in an interview with CMEV stated that the Primary investigation related to the incident was already complete and the report had been submitted to the Commissioner of Elections. Final action would be taken in accordance with the Commissioner’s decision.

Misuse of Public Property and Power
There is an increasing trend to misuse Public Property and resources during the election campaign. State owned buildings, telephones and vehicles are presently utilized for the election campaign. CMEV election monitors note that the election campaigns of former Chief Ministers are especially culpable in this regard.

Mr. Berty Premalal Dissanayake, former Chief Minister and a candidate for the office of Chief Minister in the North-Central Province flagrantly misuses all the facilities and State property (Provincial Council office, office related resources and 8 government vehicles) he had access to when he held office as part of his election campaign for re-election.

Details of misusing items are as follows:
Office:    Chief Ministers Office, Harischandra Mw. [Dharmapala Mw.], Anuradhapura
Telephone/s: 025 – 2222409, 025 – 22224855, 025 – 2222045
Vehicles:     [NCP KB – 2682], [NCP KB – 5339], [64 – 7666], [54 – 7305], [53 – 9380],
[32 – 6503], [65 – 6413] and [58 – 8333]

CMEV field monitors reported an incident related to the unethical conduct of former Chief Minister of the Sabaragamuwa Province vying for re-election, Mr. Maheepala Herath. According to the CMEV field monitors records, interviews for new admissions for a training course on jewellery production at the Gem and Jewellery Research and Training Institute was held on 5th August at Mr. Herath’s private residence (“Rathnagiri”, Kegalle) with Mr. W. M. W. Abeyrathne Bandara, a working Director of the Institute. Tellingly, an advertisement in the Lankadeepa newspaper on 4th August noted that the deadline for applications fell on 8th August.  The Director used a double-cab bearing the registration number HP-4219 belonging to the Institute to visit Mr. Herath’s residence to conduct these “interviews”.

North Central Province

The highest election related malpractices [65%] of NCP were recorded from the Anuradhapura District.  Within the Anuradhapura District, 23 incidents were recorded from Kalaweva electorate, constituting 60% of recorded incidents. There were 4 cases of assault, 1 case of hurt, 1 incident of regarding the misuse of State property, 4 related to robbery, 3 related to mischief and 11 on damage to property. The Polonnaruwa electorate recorded the highest number of incidents [65%] from the Polonnnaruwa District. Incidents included 1 assault, 2 related to robbery, 1 related to mischief, 3 incidents of threatening behaviour and 2 regarding damage to property.

Sabaragamuwa Province

The highest number of incidents [53%] was recorded in the Ratnapura District. Of these incidents 7 were from the Kolonna electorate, 5 were from the Rakwana electorate and 3 were from the Pelmadulla electorate. To date, 20 incidents were recorded from the Kegalle District. 10 incidents were from the Kegalle electorate, 4 from Rambukkana, 3 from Mawanella electorate and 1 from Aranayake, Deraniyagala and Dedigama respectively.

On account of the grave nature of the offences, incidents that occurred up to the 10th of August 2008 are highlighted below.

Attempted Murder
The attempted murder on 9th August of Mr. Lalith hettiarachchi (an active member of the JVP) recorded from the Elheliyagoda electorate in the Ratnapura District was a key incident. He is presently recovering from a gunshot wound in Ward 72 at the National Hospital in Colombo. Mr. Chameera Koswatte (Chief Ministerial candidate of JVP for the Sabaragamuwa Province) stated in an interview conducted by CMEV that “the main purpose of this incident was politically motivated”. However when CMEV asked Avissawella Police to comment on this incident, they were of the firm opinion that it was not politically motivated. Inspector of Police K. Upali Tillekaratne issued a statement that “this was perpetrated by a gang habitually involved in crimes related to “House Breaking by Night.” When CMEV spoke to the wife of the victim, Mrs. Singakkarage Siriyalatha, she too reiterated the attack on her husband was politically motivated.

The other incident was reported from the Anuradhapura – East electorate on 9th August.  A supporter of the United National Party (UNP) Chief Minister Candidate Major General Janaka Perera was hospitalized with serious gunshot injuries from an unknown gang. The gang had shot at the vehicle [57 – 9757] the victim was travelling with other supporters. The firing took place around 2am close to the “Mahajana Pola”. Mr. Nuwan Sampath Jayasinghe was admitted to the Anuradhapura Base Hospital. Media coordinator Major Dayarathne had directed the driver of vehicle to CMEV spokesmen. According to the driver, two vehicles were engaged in the attack – a cab and a Land Rover Defender. No further details of the vehicles were noted. The owner of the vehicle, Mr. Kapila Muthugala also was in the vehicle. When CMEV contacted Mr. Muthugala, he mentioned and confirmed the driver’s statement and further noted that both vehicles were green, but could not identify registration number and the persons who were in them.

When CMEV contacted a spokesman of the Anuradhapura hospital, he said that the victim, Sampath Jayasinghe (18), had undergone surgery on 9th August and discharged on 11th August. Major Gen. Janaka Perera lodged a complaint to the Anuradhapura police station on 9th August 2008 under EIB 191/62. When CMEV contacted Crime branch of the Police Headquarters in Anuradhapura, Police Sergeant Mr. Jayaweera confirmed the lodging of this complaint and said that investigations were in progress.

Hurt
The most notable incident in this category was recorded from the Polonnaruwa electorate in the Polonnaruwa District in relation to a clash between two UPFA groups on the 7th of August near the 5th milepost of Medagama,Aralaganwila. As a result of this clash, Mr. R.M. Punchibanda Ratnayake (former Provincial Council member and UPFA candidate for the upcoming election) suffered grievous hurt on his left arm. He is presently hospitalised in Ward 10 at the Government Hospital in Pollonnaruwa.

In the interview conducted by CMEV, Mr. Ratnayake alleged that supporters of Mr. Saranelis Dayawanse (UPFA candidate) were the perpetrators of this incident. When CMEV contacted Mr. Dayawanse, he conceded that there was a clash between the two groups.

Aralaganwila Police also stated that the two parties had settled their differences.

Use of Firearms
During the pre-election period CMEV election monitors observe that incidents involving the use of firearms are steadily increasing. 6% of incident logged by CMEV to date involved the use of firearms.

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 organisation to monitor the incidence of election related violence. Currently, CMEV is made up of CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre.

DR.PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UDAYA KALUPATHIRANA (CO-CONVENOR)

MR. UVINDU KURUKULASURIYA (CO-CONVENOR)

Please download the PDF of this statement here.

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.