Presidential Election 2010: Statement on election day observations

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27 January 2010, Colombo, Sri Lanka: On 26th January, Election Day, CMEV deployed 3,790 monitors in mobile teams and in polling stations throughout the island.

On Election Day, CMEV recorded a total of 178 incidents of which 94 have been categorised as Major.  The highest number of Major incidents – 26 cases of Intimidators’ Presence in the vicinity of polling stations- was recorded in the Kandy District. Eight (08) of the 94 Major Incidents involved the use of firearms. The Kurunegala District, which recorded the highest number of Major incidents during the campaign (36), recorded 04 incidents of violence in this category on Election Day, illustrating a feature noted in other elections of a high incidence of campaign violence not being replicated on the day of the election.

In comparison with the violence recorded on Election Day in the 1999 and 2005 Presidential Elections, Election Day of the 2010 Presidential Election was considerably less violent. In 1999 there were 816 Major Incidents and in 2005, 242.

The Interim Report released by CMEV contains its observations on the election campaign. In it we noted our concern about the challenges to the electoral process highlighted in the election campaign which ranged from the flouting of the authority of the Election Commissioner to the abuse of state resources to problems with voter identity documentation and voting arrangements for IDPs as well as the high incidence of violence in this our first post war, peace time election in decades.  Accordingly we reiterated our call for the implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, in particular the establishment of independent commissions for the Police, public service and Elections, it provides for.   We made the point that the Seventeenth Amendment does not constitute a panacea and that it is not a sufficient measure to ensure the integrity of the electoral process, but rather a pivotally necessary one.

The concerns raised in our Interim Report remain.  We wish to highlight three issues in addition to the incidence of violence recorded on Election Day.  The first relates to the demonstrably unsatisfactory transport arrangements for IDP voting, which resulted in the effective disenfranchisement of a number of IDPs.  In a Media Communiqué on Election Day, CMEV highlighted the case of 300 IDPs who on account of delays in transport were unable to vote after having waited hours for that transport.  CMEV learns that they were left stranded thereafter and that there were other IDPs who were placed in a similar predicament.

The second issue relates to the series of explosions in Jaffna that occurred before polling commenced and immediately thereafter. CMEV believes that these acts of violence were perpetrated to reduce the voter turnout in the peninsula and calls on the agencies of law and order to bring the perpetrators of this violence to justice.  Such violence in particular compounds the challenges of peace, reconciliation and national unity.  Likewise, the effective disenfranchisement of the IDPs.  The free and fullest participation of the people of the north in the democratic process of the country is to be welcomed, not impeded and undermined.

The final issue CMEV wishes to highlight is especially critical and relates to the concerns raised by party agents and members of the public about the integrity of the count. CMEV shares these concerns and has received complaints alleging that party agents were both assaulted and chased from counting centres in a number of districts.  Complaints to date have been received from the Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Matale Electoral Districts.  On 27 January, CMEV wrote to the Commissioner regarding this, urging him to publicly acknowledge and address these concerns before the official announcement of the final result.

CMEV will issue a full report on both the campaign and Election Day once all field reports from its monitors have been compiled.

On the available evidence and information in its possession, CMEV believes that the problems in the electoral process identified above need to be urgently addressed.  This is essential to ensure that the doubts and concerns expressed over the results of this election do not persist and undermine the integrity of our electoral process as well as the legitimacy of our governance.

Letter to Commissioner of Elections to urgently address concerns voiced by voters and shared by CMEV

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27th January 2010

BY HAND, FAX & REGISTERED POST

Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake

Elections Commissioner

Department of Elections

Sarana Mawatha,

Rajagiriya

Dear Mr. Dissanayake,

I wish to bring to your urgent attention the concerns voiced by voters and shared by CMEV with regard to the counting process of votes in the 26 January 2010 Presidential Election and the announcement of the results.

In particular, we have received information regarding disruption of the counting process including physical assault of counting officers and agents of the principal opposition candidate in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Matale.  The informants insist on anonymity in the interests of their personal security and I am therefore, regrettably unable to furnish you with further details of their complaints and concerns at this moment.

Consequently, I am writing to request you to, as a matter of the utmost priority, publicly acknowledge and address voter concerns and doubts about the integrity of the electoral process and in particular, the process of counting and release of results, before you make the official announcement of the final result.

Please be assured of my cooperation

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely

……………………………………………………….

DR. PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU

CO-CONVENOR

CMEV Briefing: Inability of Authorities to Address the Voter Rights of IDPs and Others in the North

26 January 2010: CMEV was informed that approximately 24,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) presently living in government run camps and with host families were also registered on the 2008 electoral register. Out of this number, 16,000 IDPs applied to cast their vote within the Vavuniya district while 8,000 were eligible to cast their vote in areas such as the Killinochchi district at today’s Presidential election. CMEV was informed by the Government Agent (GA) Vavuniya that 55% of IDPs in Vavuniya were able to cast their vote with only 8.3% voting in Mullaitivu district. CMEV was also informed by the authorities in Jaffna that there was a turnout of 22% in the Jaffna district and 3.5% in Killinochchi.

CMEV in its Election Day Media Comminque No 3 raised problems faced in the north and especially those faced by IDPs with regard to voting, including insufficient identity documents and the authorities failing to organise transport for them to travel to other areas to cast their vote. CMEV further notes that concerns of IDPs and returnees toregarding the exercise of the franchise were raised with the Election Commissioner and other government officials earlier and proposals presented to them to address these concerns.

CMEV raises continuing concerns regarding the exercise of the franchise by IDPs. These are listed below.

  1. CMEV was informed that hundreds of IDPs were unable to cast their vote in Killinochchi as a direct result of inefficient transport arrangements. For example, in Arunuchalam and Ramanathan camps 300 IDPs waited from 6am till 1pm for buses to arrive to transport them to Killinochchi to vote. The buses only reached the camps at 1.30pm and the IDPs were transported to Killinochchi at 3.55pm, allowing them only 5 minutes to vote. Unfortunately these 300 IDPs were not allowed to vote on the grounds that the polls had closed. CMEV has been informed that they have no way of returning to the camps in Vavuniya and are presently stranded in Killinochchi without accomodation. This is only one case which illustrates the problems faced by IDPs living in Vavuniya with a vote in Killinochchi.
  2. CMEV was also informed that IDPs who were promised transport by the authorities faced several difficulties in travelling to the cluster centres in the Vanni. At the present moment there still remain restrictions on freedom of movement of IDPs which have been previously challenged by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a constituent member of CMEV. CMEV was informed that IDPs were issued tokens for transport on election day on the 25th night and early 26th morning. At around 4am on the 26th, IDPs were informed through the public address system that they were required to be present sharp at 6am at a specific location to board the buses provided by the authorities. As a result all those who were eligible to travel gathered at 6am to board the bus but were kept waiting for several hours with no information as to what arrangements had been made. Only at 10am did the first few buses arrive to transport IDPs to cluster centres. The second contingent of busses arrived around 1.30pm. During the time period between the first contingent of buses and the second, there was no information given to IDPs regarding voting procedures.
  3. CMEV monitors further reported that IDPs who were travelling to Killinochchi were stopped at the Omanthai check point and checked by military which further delayed their travel. This checking seems unnecessary when IDPs had left government camps where they are regularly checked. They should have been directly transported to the polling centres so that they could vote without delay.
  4. There were several cases where IDPs who are presently in camps with a vote in Vavuniya had no public transport to polling centres and as a result had to walk a distance of around 7km. This is an issue that could have been dealt with previously and steps taken to ensure that all IDPs who needed transport were provided with it. CMEV was informed that as a result of not having adequate public transport, many turned back and did not cast their vote.
  5. Further and this is pertinent in the above cited case, IDPs have expresed fear of repercussions if they could not show proof of having voted after having left camps in order to do so, such as the indelible ink mark on the fingers of all those who have.
  6. CMEV received reports that several residing in Jaffna with a vote in Killinochchi were unable to vote. This was mainly due to insufficient transport arrangements for IDPs and those having returned to Jaffna being unable to travel to cluster centres to cast their vote.  CMEV has been unable to obtain the exact figure of the numbers involved in this regard.

Upon receiving the above complaints, CMEV contacted the GA Vavuniya and Killinochchi. According to the GA of Vavuniya, 70 buses to transport IDP voters and 40 buses to transport IDPs within Vavuniya as well as 30 to other areas were deployed respectively. The GA Killinochchi stated that efforts had been coordinated with officials in Vavuniya and Jaffna to transport voters. Authorities in Jaffna also confirmed that arrangements had been organised. Though these measures may have been taken, CMEV notes that many were disenfranchised as a result of delays and shortcomings.

Those affected and displaced by the conflict and presently living with host families and in camps and those returned to areas in the North and East need special attention. This has been continuously raised by CMEV and its constituent members. Today’s effective disenfranchisement of several hundred of those most affected by the conflict needs immediate attention.

CMEV also raises concern about the security situation in several parts of the North where explosions took place in the course of election day which impacted voter turnout. The deterrent effects of the resulting fear on voter turnout and the inability of many to cast their vote, has compromised the integrity of the electoral process in the north.  It is especially regrettable given the imperatives of reconciliation and national unity in this our first post war election.  We strongly urge the Election Commissioner to take the necessary steps to prevent this from occuring in the forthcoming General Election and stop short of calling for a repoll of the north in this presidential election because we are not in possession of the exact figure of effective disenfranchisement.

Presidential Election 2010: Election Day Media Communiqué No. 4

Read this report as a PDF here.

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CMEV has received the following reports from the field:

Eastern Province

Batticaloa District: Kalkudah Electroate: SLMC supporter Mr. Mohamad Ismail was attacked by a group of UPFA supporters at around 10:55 am about 20m away from the Oddamavadi Central College Polling Station (Polling Centre 69). CMEV spoke to Mr Ismail, who informed CMEV that he had been hit by members of the group, resulting in injuries to his face, left leg and right hand. He was admitted to the Mancholai hospital and is currently receiving treatment. No Police report had been lodged as at 10:55 am.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: At the Ampara/Lihiniyagama Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (21) there had been a long queue of 300 people around 8:15 am and the delay had caused about 30 people to leave the premises without casting their vote. According to the SPO of the polling station the delay is on account of the checking of temporary IDs and the lack of staff at the polling centre.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: CMEV monitors were prevented from accessing Ampara/ Damana Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (151) by the Police at around 10:40 am for 15 minutes after which the monitor was given access. The reason given by the Police was that the Eastern Province Minister for Education and Transport, Wimalaweera Dissanayake was at the polling station.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: CMEV reports that at around 9.30 am the Buddhist monk of Pokunuvita Temple Ven Pokunugala Sri Manarathana stood for about 30 minutes within a distance of 50 meters from the Ampara/ Damana Maha Vidyalaya Polling Centre (Polling Centre No. 151), and attempted to influence voters in favour of President Mahinda Rajapakse .  When the Police had asked the monk to leave, he had continued trying to influence people from within a distance of 200 meters for a further 1 ½ hours.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: Three officials of the Lathpandura Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Centre No. 19) have not reported for duty as of 10.20 am. As a result there is a long queue of about 350 people. In addition to his duties, the SPO has to assist the others in their duties.

Ampara District: Digamadulla Electorate: Chairman W.S.W.N Ariyaratne Wijewickrema and the Vice Chairman Udena Chinthaka Navaratne of the Maha Oya Pradeshiya Sabha arrived in a cab (Vehicle number – EP LE 7504) and a van (Vehicle number – EP GR 8672) with another 10 people to Mr. A. M Gunadasa’s shop and have threatened to kill him saying that he is influencing people to vote for the Swan Symbol (Sarath Fonseka). Though Mr. Gunadasa has insisted that he does not support any party, the group have threatened and warned him that he should expect “something” to happen in the night. CMEV also reports that voters have been transported in these same 2 vehicles to the Ampara Kudaharasgala Vidyalaya Polling Station (Polling Station No. 58).

Trincomalee District – Trincomalee Electorate – at 11.40am the Trincomalee ARO Mr. Vijaya Samarasinghe stated that if the Polling Agents are agreead, people with Postal IDs, Navy Passes, Army IDs and Police Reports could vote. A person with a Postal ID had allegedly attempted to cast a vote and was prevented by the SPO Krishanadas, at which point UPFA Provincial Councilor Ariyawathi Galappaththi had protested. The ARO had subsequently arrived on the scene and pronounced the above. CMEV has received confirmation of this from the SPO.

Northern Province

Vanni District – Vavuniya Electorate – as reported by the CMEV mobile team, yet another hand grenade attack was reported from Amman Road – School Road Junction, Paddirukulam at 12.02pm.

Vanni District – Vavuniya Electorate – 11.50 a.m in Kurumankadu a house at No 25, 4th lane, Dharmadevar, Kurumankadu, Vavuniya was subjected to a grenade attack.

Vavuniya District, Vavuniya electorate- CMEV monitor reported that at 11.43am a van (no57-9138) with around 8 persons including Nasim, Rishny, Larry and Risvan who were identified by persons around the area and supporters of Minister Rishard Badurdeen, came to Muslim MV Pattanichpulliyankulam (centre no 40 ) and hurled a hand grenade at SLMC member Mr. A.L.M Safir within the radius of 500m of the polling station. There were no injuries reported.

Central Province

Nuwara Eliya District – Nuwara Eliya Maskeliya Electorate – at 12.00pm at Vatagoda Tamil Vidyalaya polling station centre no 15, CWC supporters canvassed voters in favour of the UPFA candidate. The Police arrived on the scene and dispersed the group.

Nuwara Eliya District – Nuwara Eliya Maskeliya Electorate – at 1.00pm both UPFA and NDF supporters gathered at the Parpadam Wathu Pasela centre no 26, influencing voters.

Kandy District – Gampola Electorate – at 3.00pm, approximately 70 UPFA supporters were behaving in a manner that disturbed voters at the Atabage Udagama Maha Vidyalaya centre no 32.

Kandy District – Theldeniya Electorate – At 15.20pm at the Abeysinghe Kanishta Vidyalaya centre no 30 in Watapatha, the ARO and SPO prevented CMEV mobile monitors from entering the above polling centre.

Kandy District – Theldeniya Electorate – At 2.15pm at Waradhiwela Maha Vidyalaya centre no 9 the SPO of the polling station prevented the CMEV mobile monitor from entering the polling station.

Kandy District – Gampola Electorate – at 4.00pm at Atabhage Udagama Mahavidyalaya centre no 32 at Maddagam Madda, it is alleged that UPFA Minister D.M Jayaratne’s son assaulted the policeman guarding this polling station.

Southern Province

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – according to JVP Member of Parliament Nihal Galappatti, at 11.00am UPFA supporters influenced voters at the Pagngnananda Prathamika Vidyalaya centre no. 41. The Police Officer appointed to the centre had taken action to remove the UPFA supporters. The IOC of Beliatte Police Krishantha had subsequently arrived on the scene and removed the Police Officer from the polling centre.

Hambantota District – Thissamaharama Electorate – the CMEV monitor has not been allowed into the Yatalathissa Prathamika Vidyalaya centre no 71. He was also denied any information.

Galle District – Galle Electorate- around 10.10 am Deputy Minister Lionel Premasiri, Deputy Mayor of Galle Fawzie Niyas ( UPFA) visited a house close to Katagoda Technical Collage and threatened and intimidated the occupants as alleged by Phillip Nishantha, who also placed an entry with the Galle Harbour Police.

Hambantota District – Beliatta, Kahawaata Polling Station(NO.40), Ajith Mathumanna, JVP member of Pradeshiya Sabha, reported that two vehicles  belonging to Blue Force(“NIL BALAKAYA”)of UPFA, were  parked near the Polling Station at about 10.00 a.m.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – Gatamanna North Junior School Polling Station (No 35),CMEV mobile monitor Sampath reported that many unauthorized persons were seen in the polling station between 08.30am and 09.15 am.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate -H/Nayaka Rajapakse Vidyalaya (No 34), CMEV monitor reported that many unauthorized persons were seen within the polling station between 8.30am and 9.15 a.m.

Hambantota District – Beliatte Electorate – Gatamanna Wijaya Central Collage Polling Station (No 33), CMEV monitor in Beliatta reported that that many unauthorized persons were seen within the polling station between 08.30 am and 9.15 a.m.

Hambantota District – Tangalle Electorate – Kadurupokuna Maha Vidyalaya Polling Station No 23, CMEV monitor reported that the voting booths were positioned in such a way as to make ballot papers visible to the SPO when the voters cast their votes. The incident was reported about 8.30 a.m.

Hambantota District – Tangalla Electorate,Gajanayakagama Junior School(No 50)Polling Station, former MP Kularatne reported that D.R. Pradeep Kumarage who was supposed to continue as a representative in the Polling Station was assaulted and handed over to the Weerakatiya Police Station by M.K.Mahesh, the son of M.K. Ranjith, Member of the Southern Provincial Council and Private Secretary to Minister, Mahinda Samaraweera, complaining that he had illegally collected NICs at about 12.20 pm. The suspect remains under arrest at the Police station.

Matara District – Matara Electorate – Pamburana Saliputhra Vidyalaya Polling Station, JVP organizer for Mathara District reported that UPFA supporters of minister Chandrasiri Gajahdheera came in a procession to the Pamburana  Sailputhra Polling Station about 8.50 a.m. .

North Western Province

Kurunegala District – Hiriyala Electorate – between 12.00pm and 1.00pm, CMEV monitors W.A.S.L. Gunawardena and R.S.G. Wijendra were threatened and their documents torn up by approximately 20 UPFA supporters who attempted to assault the monitors, near the Almina Muslim Maha Vidyalaya centre no 36. Police Officers who arrived on the scene had resolved the situation.

Puttalam District – Chilaw Electorate – at 2.40 pm when the Returning Officer was entering the polling station at Pambala Kanishta Vidyalaya centre no 66, some UPFA supporters had also entered the polling station asserting that if the Returning Officer could enter the station, they also had the ability to do so.

Puttalam District – Chilaw Electorate – at 11.20 am: voters at the Bangadeniya Kanishta Vidyalaya Polling Station centre no 23 were assaulted by UPFA Arachchikattuwa Pradesheeya Sabha President Jagath Samantha and others. They also told the Polling Agent to leave the Polling station. Jagath Samantha rejects the allegation.

North Central Province

Polonnaruwa District – Polonnaruwa Electorate – while UNP supporter Lakshman Senevirathne was on his way to the polling centre at 6.00am, A.K.G. Nishantha Harischandra, Ranjan Nanayakkara (Mahaweli Adhikariya) and Prashan had blocked the road and threatened him.  A complaint has been lodged at the Aralaganwila Police – CIB I 205/238.

Polonnaruwa District – Polonnaruwa Electorate – UPFA provincial councilor Peshala Jayaratna had been transporting voters in vehicles belonging to Thamankaduwa Pradeshiya Sabha at around 1.30pm.

Uva Province

Badulla District – Mahiyanganaya Electorate – at 1.30 p.m – a group of supporters of the Agriculture Minister of the Uva Palath Sabahva, Anura Vidanagamage, went to the home of Mr Attanayake Mudiansalage Gunaratne in Beligalla, Dambana and assaulted him and his wife. No serious injuries were sustained in the assault. The Mahiyangana Police has received the complaint and were recording statements.

Monaragala District – Monaragala Electorate – at 1.25 p.m. Uva Provincial Council Minister Kumara Siri Ratnayake and his supporters parked his vehicle ( Vehicle No. 59-2041) bearing President Rajapakse’s poster, in front of the Kirawanagoda Kanishta Vidyala centre no 87 and were seen talking to voters.

Digamadulla District, Pottuvil Electorate: CMEV observed two persons on a motor bike (MT 0340) distributing ballot papers outside AI/ Kathariya Vidyalaya (Polling Centre 86) to four women asking them to vote for President Mahinda Rajapaka. One of the women, A.M. Mizaya who had already cast her vote had taken one of the ballot papers and voted again. A CMEV monitor overheard the JPO asking her ”why did you come now, you should have come later.”

CMEV strongly urges the Election Commissioner to consider annulling the poll in this particular polling station.