Co-Convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Elections Violence Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu speaks on voter turnout and violence on the day of the Western Provincial Council elections, and also on how the elections results will be interpreted by political parties.
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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.
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.
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.