Election law violations and misuse of state resources are on the rise, say polls monitoring groups with three weeks more to go for elections to the Central Province, North Western Province and Northern Province. The complaints are mainly related to intra party clashes among UPFA supporters in the Central Province and North Western Province. Last Monday [...]


Intra party violence takes the lead in polls race


Election law violations and misuse of state resources are on the rise, say polls monitoring groups with three weeks more to go for elections to the Central Province, North Western Province and Northern Province. The complaints are mainly related to intra party clashes among UPFA supporters in the Central Province and North Western Province.

Preparations for postal voting underway at the Puttalam Post Office. Pic by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

Last Monday (19) two Kotagala organisers of the National Workers Union (NWU) were stabbed in Hatton town after a clash between supporters of Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and NWU. Both parties are constituent partners of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

UPFA Parliamentarian P.Digambaram who is also the leader of NWU said on the day of the incident, he was travelling with some of his supporters along with Parliamentarian P. Rajadurai from NWU candidate Saraswathi Siva Guru’s home in Kotagala to Nuwara Eliya. While passing a popular rest house in Kottagala a group of about 100 supporters of the CWC arrived in eight vehicles and attacked them.

“The CWC supporters were drunk and they behaved violently. They damaged my vehicle and if my bodyguards hadn’t fired in the air I could have been killed,” he said. Mr. Digambaram said he had asked the President and Inspector General of Police to tighten his security and he has been assigned two more bodyguards.

Following the clash the offices of both Mr. Digambaram and Mr. Thondaman were damaged by supporters from both parties.
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) charged that there was little law and order in the Nuawara Elya district where the influence of Minister Arumugam Thondaman reigned. “This is a scenario we had noted in recent previous elections and see this incident as one of the most serious election related instance of violence in the Nuwara Eliya District,” CaFFE director Keerthi Tennakoon said.

Although several attempts were made to contact Minister Thondaman to get his comments on the incident he was not contactable. Commenting on the Hatton incident, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections Director, Rohana Hettiarachchi said, around four including a female were injured.

Meanwhile, a similar incident was reported in the Kururnegala district. The continuing clash between two groups of the UPFA candidates for the North-Western Provincial Council took a violent turn on August 14 when the house of a supporter of UPFA leading candidate Dayasiri Jayasekera was attacked

According to CaFFE the victim had said around 2 a.m. a vehicle had stopped in front of his house. Those who had arrived in the vehicle had thrown stones at his house damaging the windows. “I didn’t open the door. I am a supporter of the party that holds office, still I live in fear. Don’t I have the right to support anyone I like?” the man had reportedly told CaFFE.

CaFFE said they had noted that the two groups one led by a minister and the other by leading candidate of UPFA (Dayasiri Jayasekara) in the Kurunegala District were increasingly becoming more antagonistic towards each other.

CaFFE said that they strongly advised the relevant authorities to take action to prevent future clashes between the two groups.
However, campaigning in the Northern Province where elections are being held for the provincial council after more than 30 years is low key while incidence of violations too are relatively low compared to other provinces. Jaffna Elections Commissioner S. Achchudan said, “There has been election law violation complaints reported, such as political appointments, newspaper propaganda, displaying cutouts and posters. Anyhow these issues were directed to the police and they have been addressed,” he said.

Mr. Achchudan said he meets the candidates once in two weeks to advise them on the election laws. Party leaders and parliamentarians participate at these discussions. “The meetings with the candidates are progressing well and this had helped curb the incidence of election law violations,” he said.

He also said they would conduct awareness programmes for the public on how to cast their votes,
PAFFREL Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said unwanted development activities and political appointments were the complaints reported from Jaffna and that the Elections Commissioner has taken necessary action.

Mr. Hettiarachchi added that vehicle processions were continuing in the Nuwara Eliya district violating election laws but there was little police crackdown due to political pressure. “We wrote to the IGP to take necessary action, regardless of political pressure,” he said.

Mr. Hettiarachchi said in Puttalam Pradeshiya Sabha employees were involved in election campaigns in addition to vehicles too being used. He said although initially the police had seized these vehicles they had later said they were privately-owned ones.

In Ambagamuwa area in the Central Province about four Pradeshiya Sabha buildings had been used for election propaganda activities, Mr. Hettiarachchi said adding that this activity was stopped by the police due to the involvement of PAFFREL observers.

According to PAFFREL, 160 election related complaints have been reported so far–100 from the Central province, 39 from the North-Western Province and 21 from the Northern Province. The Elections Department said they had received 173 election related complaints 30 of them related to misuse of state- owned resources.

CaFFE said they had received 189 complaints.

Complaints must be in writing

Deputy Commissioner of Elections, M.M. Mohammed said complaints regarding election law violations or any other election related complaints should be handed over to the complaints division of the Elections Secretariat in writing, if action is to be taken against the violators.

“The final decision can only be made by a court for any action to be taken. People should be aware in such cases authorities have to wait until the court gives an order,” he said.

Mr. Mohammed said that the Elections Commissioner has taken necessary measures to prevent and minimise election law violations and violence on a divisional and district level. “Instructions have been given to government officials who are responsible for government assets, to see that they are not used to promote candidates,” he said.

“When we receive complaints we do an initial inquiry and direct it to the Police to carry out further investigations,” he said.
The cost of the provincial council elections on September 21, is Rs. 1500 million.

Additional reporting from Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe in Puttlam

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