The elections to the North Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces councils yesterday were generally peaceful and the turnout a relatively high 70 percent but thousands of people complained they were unable to vote because they did not have a valid identity document.
Reports said many voters came to the polling booths either with a non-valid form of identification or only with their polling cards and thus were not allowed to vote. Many of them claimed they were not even aware of such a requirement.
A few hours after polls began yesterday, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake in a special statement told voters, senior presiding officers, polling agents and other officials that voters must possess a valid identification document approved by the department.
Worst affected by this order were estate sector voters in the Ratnapura and Kegalle districts. In the two districts as many as 30,000 voters were
unable to cast their vote, according to the JVP’s Sabaragamuwa chief ministerial candidate Chameera Koswatte.
A Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) official said the group had received information of about 500 cases where estate voters who did not possess a valid identity document were turned away in areas such as Pelmadulla and Nivithigala.
The official said there were also complaints from the CWC candidates who claimed that 35-40% of estate people in areas such as Wewalwatte, Hanugasthenna, Nugepola in the Ratnapura district could not cast their votes due to this requirement.
The Sunday Times learns that around 2,000 estate workers who applied for NICs a month ago via a mobile service had not received their IDs on time and had gone to the polling booths with the counterfoil. However they were not allowed to vote as this was not a valid form of identification.
In a polling booth at Yodha Ela in Minneriya, the JVP had complained that people had come to cast their votes with only a photograph issued by the Grama Niladhari, he said.
A large number of voters were also turned away from polling booths in Deraniyagala, Ruwanwella, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Anuradhapura West, Kekirawa and Polonnaruwa.
Among the acceptable forms of identity to vote are the National Identity Card (NIC), passport, Valid driving license, postal identity card, railway season ticket with photograph, Pensioners Identity Card issued by the Director of Pensions or the Divisional Secretariat, Bhikku ID or a photo identity card issued by a government authority.
Those without any of these identity documents were asked to obtain special temporary identity cards issued by a Grama Niladhari and application for this closed a week before the polls.
Brisk voting was reported from all parts of the four districts – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kegalle and Ratnapura.
The UNP’s Chief Ministerial candidates Janaka Perera and Ranjan Ramanayaka claimed that the elections were not entirely free and fair, though elections-day incidents were fewer than previous days.