Press Conference – January 28th 2018

CMEV conducted the first media conference for 2018, in line with the upcoming Local Authorities Elections. In this conference CMEV revealed their election observation mechanism as well as findings by CMEV during the pre-election campaign to date.

The other main focus of the conference was a discussion on incidents of violence against women in elections which were witnessed even before the nomination period, though there is a legally granted 25% quota for women’s representation in this election.

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu, Co-convener of CMEV and Manjula Gajanayake addressed the media while T. Hensmen and Nirmala Benard the situation in both North & Eastern provinces respectively. This media conference was held at CSR Maradana on 28th January 2018

To watch the full press conference, click here.

Local Authorities Election 2018: Media Communique 2

0900h,  28th   January 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

As a consequence of the historic allocation of 25% female representation in this election, the minimum number of female candidates that would be elected to all the local authorities throughout the country will amount to over 1985.

CMEV has the following observations to make with regard to this, in the campaign so far. These observations are based on field reports received by CMEV.

  1. Party secretaries and party organizers have not effectively used this provision to the full.
  2. Promises made to potential female candidates regarding nomination have not been fulfilled.
  3. Sexual favours have been demanded from potential women candidates in exchange for their confirmation as candidates.
  4. Exploiting the lack of information/knowledge of candidates of the new electoral system with regard to nomination.
  5. Chief organizers of parties curtailing the freedom of women candidates to organize their election campaigns in collaboration with constituents and local party leaders.
  6. Lodging false complaints against women candidates and hindering their election campaigns by deploying supporters to dissuade voters from voting for women candidates.

Below is a summary of some incidents involving women candidates.

15th January 2018, Puttalam district,

A series of viral videos containing insults and hate speech condemning the involvement of female candidates disseminated through social media. The cleric known as Niyaz Maulavi is alleged to be responsible for tarnishing the reputation of women candidates, including the use of profanities against women’s participation in electoral politics.

As a religious cleric, he demands that his followers not vote for women. Female candidates in the Puttalam district and in the Northern and Eastern provinces, in particular are being targeted.

The Co-Convener of CMEV Dr. P. Saravanamuttu has written to the Elections Commission and the Inspector General of Police, requesting them to take prompt action with this regard.

15th January 2018, Puttalam District

A surprise raid was carried out by four (04) police officers on the residence of C. A. Rinuza Ilma, a female candidate contesting from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. Police officers attached to Norochcholai police station raided the house on a complaint received via 119 police emergency hotline. The complainant had indicated that a large- scale operation of counterfeiting banknotes was being carried out at the house of the said female candidate and that a large number of computers at that location were being used for this purpose.  Although it was a surprise raid, the female candidate has emphatically insisted that a women police officer also should have partaken in such a raid.

The police officers were unable to find anything suspicious. Subsequently the candidate whose house was raided, arrived at the police station with another candidate named Zilia Buto and attempted to make a complaint. Yet the police officers on duty refused to accept her complaint claiming that the officer responsible for taking complaints was on leave. However, after informing one of the Election Commission members, Prof. Rathnajeevan Hoole, the complaint had finally been accepted by the police under the complaint no. CIB I 16/125. Against her objections, Police officers had edited her complaint on the grounds of relevance.

20th January 2018, Monaragala district

  1. A. Renuka Damayanthi , a female candidate of an independent group contesting for a seat in the Wellawaya Pradeshiya Sabha, was hospitalized after sustaining injuries as a result of a confrontation between candidates of the independent groups and supporters of the political parties.

Ms Damayanthi had been a former supporter of United People’s Freedom Alliance.  Although she had been hoping to be a Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate, she has not been given nomination. Hence she submitted nomination as a contestant of an independent group.

The 119, emergency response unit has received a complaint from Mr. R. M. Lalith Rathnayake, one of the neighbors of the said female candidate claiming that she has been displaying the picture of the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as campaign material at her residence and on her vehicle. The complainant is a supporter of SLPP. The confrontation has started while the police officers had been at her residence to investigate the above complaint. It resulted in R. M. Lalith Rathnayake assaulting candidate Damayanthi. The assault caused facial bleeding to her and she has been admitted to the Wellawaya hospital where she is still receiving treatment.

Candidate Damayanthi’s husband V. P. Aruna Chaminda Kumara has retaliated by assaulting Pushpa Shiromala, the wife of Lalith Rathnayake . Ms Shiromala has also been admitted to the same hospital and is receiving treatment.

  1. M. Lalith Rathnayake and Aruna Chaminda Kumara have been arrested as suspects and have been presented to the magistrate under B Report 11060. They have been remanded till 23rd January 2018.

12th December 2017, Batticoloa district, Manmunaipattu Pradeshiya Sabha, Ariyampathi South electorate (No. 4)

An attack with stones had been leveled at The house of UNP candidate K. Jeyachandrika was stoned by an unidentified gang on the night of the 12th of December 2017. She has lodged a complaint at the Kattankudi police station under the complaint no. CIB III 98/148. No suspects have been identified.

21st of January 2018, Gampaha District, Negombo Municipal Council

It has been reported to CMEV that Muthukudaarachchige Namali Susanthi, representing United National Freedom Front, has been subjected to verbal assault and intimidation. The incident took occurred at around 12:00 P.M. near the supermarket located at Kaduwapitiya junction in Negombo. The person alleged  to have been involved in the said verbal assault and intimidation is a supporter of another candidate representing the United National Party.

Candidate Susanthi has lodged a complaint at the Negombo Police Station under the complaint no. EIB 60112.

26th January 2018, Gangawatakoralaya Pradeshiya Sabha, Kandy district

Ms N. M. Udayangani Kumudukumari, an expectant mother employed at the Internal Audit Division of the Coconut Cultivation Board, has been nominated for the  Gangawatakorale Pradeshiya Sabha  by the Jathika Janatha party without her knowledge and her signature has also been forged.

When the leader of Janatha Jathika party was contacted he apologized for the mistake and declined to comment on it when CMEV contacted him.

Other Observations:

Providing guidelines to minimize the disturbances caused by election rallies in residential areas.

CMEV has been consistently monitoring election rallies held since nominations were called. One of the observations made was that most rallies are being held in the middle of the road in residential areas. Rallies addressed by the leaders of the main political parties, are also held in highly congested areas where large crowds often gather. CMEV has written to the Elections Commission requesting the introduction of guidelines specifying criteria for the relevant authorities to follow when granting permission for political rallies.

Impact of social media in elections

Social media has been identified as a more modern and cost-effective means of campaigning.  It is therefore important to minimize the negative elements like hate speech, if prevention through use of the law is not possible. It was also observed the government employees who took part in postal voting recently, had posted photographs of the ballot paper on social media such as facebook. CMEV has requested the Elections Commission to take action in respect of such officials including their suspension from election duties.

Activities of a deputy minister in Matale district and violations of election law by leading politicians

A Deputy Minister from the Matale District is alleged to be organizing around 15 pilgrimages during which the residents of the area have been urged to vote for his party. Furthermore, it is alleged that the said minister has asked the residents to vote for his party in exchange for gifts.

The Assistant Commissioner of Elections in Matale had distributed an information pamphlet stating that if such pilgrimages include an element of election campaigning, the participants of the said pilgrimage, will face consequences of breaching their civic duties of refraining from aiding and abating illegal election propaganda.

CMEV has received reports about two government ministers distributing forms for employment and housing in the Kegalle and Hambantotta districts respectively. Furthermore, a parliamentarian from the Gampaha District has continually been campaigning within the district with promotional material bearing his photograph in a manner that negatively affects the integrity of the upcoming election. A member of Uva Provincial Council is alleged to be violating various election laws with the intent of ensuring the victory of his wife who is a candidate in the upcoming election.

Download this release in English, Sinhala and Tamil. 

Local Authorities Election 2018: Media Communique 1

10th January 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Elections Commission has officially declared 10th February as the date for the Local Authorities Elections that have been postponed for several years. Local Authorities Elections held prior to the forthcoming elections, were held in three stages as below.

The first stage was held on 17 / 03 / 2011.

The second stage was held on 23 / 07 / 2011.

The third stage was held on 10 / 08 / 2011.

Of the above three stages, the first stage was held under the former Commissioner of Elections Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake. Since Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake retired after the first stage, his successor Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya took charge of the other two stages. The said election was the last Local Authorities Election held under a Commissioner of Elections and in accordance with the proportional representative (PR) System.

Although the prevailing government at the time, had decided to commence the aforementioned Local Authorities Election under a mixed system comprising of Proportional Representative System (PR system) and First Pass the Post System (FPTP system), the particular decision was revoked and hence the election was held according to the Proportional Representative (PR) System. It was during this election that the official accreditation to deploy Observers in every polling station island-wide was given to the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFRAL).

The final result of the three- stage elections recorded the United People’s Freedom Alliance receiving 4,774,791 votes and taking control of in 271 out of 322 local authorities.  See grid below:

Name of the party /Independent group Urban Council Municipal Council Pradeshiya Sabha Total
  United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) 17 29 225 271
Ilankai Thamil Arusu Kachchi (ITAK) 5 25 30
United National Party (UNP) 2 5 3 10
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress 1 4 5
National Congress 1 1 2
Tamil United Liberation Front 2 2
Kandurata Janatha Peramuna (Kandurata People’s Front) 1 1
Independent Group 1 1
Total 21 39 262 322

 

Although the official term of a local authority is typically four years, the upcoming election was declared long after terms of office of local authorities expired. There were numerous reasons for the delay. The primary reason was the delimitation process that had to be undertaken as per the newly introduced mix member proportional system of elections and the political dynamics at play. CMEV has expressed its concerns over the postponement of elections to the Election Commission established as per the 19th Constitutional Amendment and to the public at large.  We are of the view that notwithstanding the powers granted to the Election Commission under the 19th Amendment, the postponement of elections was largely due to the political dynamics at play as seen by the political parties, rather than any lapse on the part of the Commission.  CMEV notes that the relevant line ministry has to issue the gazette indicating the number of members to be elected from all constituencies and that Parliament has to approve the gazette. CMEV calls for the authority to schedule elections on time to be granted to the Election Commission.

The upcoming Local Authorities Election is significant because it will be the first to be conducted under the Elections Commission as well as under new system of election.  Of considerable importance too is the quota for female representation that seeks to rectify the regionally and internationally low representation of women in legislative bodies in Sri Lanka.

The total cost incurred by the Elections Commission to conduct the elections in which over 56,000 candidates will contest in 341 local authorities consisting of more than 13,000 polling stations, amounts to 3500 million LKRS. Under the new electoral system 60% of the candidates are returned through First Past the Post (FPTP) and 40% returned through PR. The overall result though, will be proportional to the total number of votes obtained.  . Accordingly, a minimum of 8356 members are expected to be elected to 341 local authorities

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), has initiated its election observation process throughout the period of local authorities election. The observation process consists of field monitors deployed as long-term observers covering all 25 administrative districts and a large number of static observers to be stationed in the polling stations on the day of elections.  In addition, on polling day mobile monitors will be deployed around the country .

CMEV will continue to work with the Commission of Elections and civil society organizations to ensure the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process. The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence has also undertaken baseline surveys and gathered data on campaign finance and the use of polythene for campaigns. CMEV will make full use of the mainstream and social media in its contribution towards the electorate making an informed choice.

Download this communique in English, Sinhala and Tamil.

Letter to IGP: Situation report on the prevailing election-related incidents in Puttalam District

Mr. Pujith Jayasundera,
Inspector General of Police,
Sri Lanka Police,
Police Headquarters,
Colombo 01,

20 / 01 /2018

Dear Sir,

Situation report on the prevailing election-related incidents in Puttalam District

On behalf of Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the support you have been providing the Elections Commission.

I also like to draw your attention towards the viral videos containing insults and hate speech condemning the involvement of female candidates in Elections, disseminating through social media. The Elections Commission has been informed of this in a separate letter.

The Cleric known as Niyaz Maulavi, using profanities is engaged in inflammatory criticism against the involvement of women in electoral politics. He has tarnished the reputation of female candidates in the Puttalam area in particular, revealing his objective as being that of preventing women from participating in electoral politics as candidates.

There are several other incidents of a similar nature, which have been reported to us. One of them is of the sudden raid forcibly carried out by four (4) police officers on the residence of C. A. Rinuza Ilma, a female candidate of the Muslim Congress. According to the information received, the said police officials attached to Norochchola police station raided the house based on a complaint received via 119 police emergency hotline. The said complaint had indicated that a large- scale currency counterfeiting operation was being carried out at the house of the said female candidate and that a number of computers in that location were being used for this purpose.  Candidate Rinuza Ilma has pointed out that a women police officer should have been included in the operation.

The raid did not produce anything of a suspicious nature. Subsequently candidate Ilma attempted to lodge a complaint at the police station. Police officers on duty refused to accept her complaint claiming that the officer entrusted with taking complaints was on leave. Following intimation of this to Election Commissioner, Prof. Rathnajeevan Hoole, the complaint was accepted by the Police. CMEV was also informed that Police Officers engaged in persuading her against including some parts of her complaint on the grounds that they were not necessary or relevant to the complaint.

We strongly urge you to take appropriate measures in this regard to strengthen and protect the integrity of the electoral process.

Thank you,
Your sincerely

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu,
Co-Convener
Centre for Monitoring Election Violence.

Copies: Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, Chairman, Elections Commission of Sri Lanka, Elections Secretariat,
President Counsel, Mr. Nalin Abeyesekara, Member of Elections Commission,
Prof. S. Rathnajeevan H. Hoole, Member of Elections Commission,
Mr. C. D. Wickramarathne, Senior Deputy Inspector General (Administration and elections), Sri Lanka Police
Mr. Ravi Peiris, Deputy Inspector General, Legal and Disciplinary division
Mr. V. P. C. A. Siriwardhana, Deputy Inspector General, Puttalam
M. I. S. I. Bandara, Assistant Election Commissioner, District office of Elections, Puttalam.

Voters with disabilities allowed to be accompanied to the polling station

The Election Commission has availed the persons with visual or physical disabilities the opportunity to be accompanied to the respective polling stations by a trusted relative or any other acquaintance and to seek assistance in casting their votes in the upcoming local government elections 2018.

This opportunity has been provided as per the existing provision in section 54(2) of the principle act by elections (Special Provisions) act no. 28 in the year 2011 for a person with complete or partial visual impairment or a person with a physical disability to be thus accompanied and assisted subject to number of conditions.

  1. The person who accompanies should be older than 18 years.
  2. The said person should not be a contestant in the election.
  3. He or she should not be an authorized agent or a polling agent of a political party at the election.
  4. The persons who thus accompanies, should not be another person with a disability.

In order to be provided with the opportunity to be thus assisted, the person with disability or someone on his or her behalf should collect the application from the respective Grama Niladhari or via the Elections Commission website and have the disability of the applicant specified by a registered / qualified medical practitioner and submit the relevant application form to the Grama Niladhari prior to the election

The applicant is subsequently issued an eligibility certificate that can be  presented to the  polling officers  at the polling station.

The identification documents recognized as valid by the Elections commission and the eligibility certificate should be in possession of the voter with disabilities and the companion at the time they arrive at the polling station to vote.

Only the person, whose name and details have been mentioned in the eligibility certificate as the companion, could enter the polling station with the specific voter with disability.

Even if a person with a disability wishes to cast the vote but does not have a companion  to assist, the senior presiding officers of the polling station have been instructed to assist such persons to cast their vote in the presence of another officer at the polling station.

As a pioneer election observing organization that has been striving to protect and promote the political and voting rights of Sri Lankans with disabilities since year 2015 along with the Enabled Elections campaign, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence continues to sensitize and keep the persons with disabilities and those advocating  on their behalf consistently informed about the significant initiatives conducive for such  persons in regards to the upcoming local authorities election.

Download this statement in English Sinhala and Tamil.