Intra-party rivalry main cause of polls violence

Security beefed up as armed gangs roam Kattankudy and Valaichchenai

Some 30 incidents of post-election violence have been reported since the conclusion of the 2010 General Elections.

While there has been a decline in the number of incidents reported in the last 24 hours, security has been increased in Kattankudy and Valaichchenai, according to independent election observers. The police have confirmed that tension is high in both areas of Batticaloa district.

At least 15 people have been arrested so far on charges of malpractice and violence on election day, while another 10 were arrested for involvement in post-election violence.

Deputy Inspector General Gamini Navaratne, head of the police elections desk, told the Sunday Times that security has been increased in areas that seem volatile, and that the police have been instructed to rigorously enforce the law.

“The elections have been comparatively peaceful, except for a few isolated incidents,” DIG Navaratne said. “We deployed 58,000 police officers and 2,000 Special Task Force personnel for special elections duty. We have arrested persons found to have incited violence, and we are looking for others who have been identified as trouble-makers.”

“We had reports of polling agents being blocked in Nawalapitiya, and of residents being coerced into voting in Trincomalee. We are investigating. Special teams under my command are following up on these reports.”

DIG Navaratne said security has been increased in Kathankudy and Valaichchenai because groups were going around trying to stir up trouble.

According to Keerthi Tennakoon, director of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), armed gangs are roaming the streets of Kathankudy and Valaichchenai.

On Friday, at least five persons in Nuwara Eliya were injured in a shooting incident, allegedly sparked by intraparty rivalry. One of the victims, the brother of a regional politician, is reported to be in critical condition.

Matale and Kurunegala have also reported post-polls violence. “Compared with previous elections, this one was relatively peaceful,” said CaFFE director Keerthi Tennakoon. “But we have noted the high level of intraparty violence.”

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