17th January 1999
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Chris KamalendranThe incidents of violence, cases of intimidation and fear psychosis spread by groups caused concern among the public, election monitoring groups and religious leaders, leading to speculation whether it would have an impact on the voter turn out at the crucial North Western Provincial Council elections next week.
Residents in the area and groups monitoring polls said that the number of incidents have been less compared to previous elections, but the number of incidents of intimidation and threats had been on the rise.
A visit to the NWP during the week showed that people's enthusiasm for the polls was still low. The UNP was concentrating mainly on house to house campaign while the PA were involved in mass scale campaigns including a large number of public rallies.
'Though there have been reports about election related violence there have been no serious incidents. In any case we will be strengthening the police in the area by moving in additional numbers closer to the elections', SSP H.M.B. Abanwala told 'The Sunday Times'.
In the latest round of violence which escalated UNP MP, Premaratna Gunasekara was shot at and was injured, a PA supporter was attacked, a UNP Pradeshiya Sabha member was stabbed and a UNP supporters house was burnt showing signs that the number of cases is likely to increase.
Mr. Gunasekara was injured when he tried to get into his vehicle at Marawila after visiting the house of a candidate in the area. A group identified as PA supporters pelted stones and opened fire injuring the MP and two others, including a child.
The following day the parish priest of the Katuneriya area summoned the PA and UNP candidates in the area an appealed to them to maintain peace, but within hours a UNP candidate's vehicle was smashed up.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe's backup vehicle was damaged the following day when he was visiting the area on Friday.
Mr. Gunasekara told 'The Sunday Times' that they were attacked without provocation with the intention of provoking the UNPers in the area to create trouble.
A cros- section of the people interviewed in the Wayamba province said that some of the incidents reported to the police were not of a serious nature, but the incidents could provoke both sides into major clashes.
UNP villagers in Makulwewa in the Hiriyala area said that they were reluctant to put up flags in the area fearing that they would be attacked by PA supporters.
'In several places our posters were removed by PA supporters', an area organiser who did not want to be named, said.
PA supporters in the area claimed that UNPers were involved in spreading rumours that the entire province has been affected by violence and they were using it as an election stunt to show that the government had failed to provide security in the area.
Meanwhile in Colombo, Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera claimed that cases of violence were much less serious than had been reported in newspapers, but confirmed that incidents had taken place.
But the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said by Thursday they had received 370 complaints about election related violence and 71 of the cases had been reported 24 hours ending on Thursday night.
The CMEV said so far the most serious incidents reported were 24 cases of hurt, 102 incidents of assault and nine cases of arson.
By Thursday 187 complaints had been made by the UNP against the PA and
128 complaints made by the PA against the UNP.
Following an incident of snatching some 300 polls cards from a postman, the postal department began polls card delivery in Wayamba with police providing protection.
P W S Silva, Senior Administrative Secretary of the North Western Postal Department said though the delivery of polling cards resumed on Friday, it was not possible to give police protection to every postman.
However, police were deployed at sub post offices and other troubled areas.
Postal chief Soma Kota-kadeniya told The Sunday Times the Elections Commissioner had requested the police to give prtoection to postmen delivering polls cards.
Accordingly, some postmen went on duty on Friday in delivering polls cards.
Tuesday and Thursday have also been set aside for special polls cards
delivery, Ms. Kotakadeniya said.
Among religious leaders and religious representatives were a large number of Catholic priests. Sarvodaya leader A.T. Ariyaratne led the march.
Participants carried peace posters and placards.
By Nilika de SilvaMore than 40 coconut trees were cut down to make way for a VVIP's helicopter to land for a campaign meeting in Hiriyala.
However the VVIP did not use this landing ground as another more suitable location was found in a private compound a short distance away.
This coconut plantation in Hiriyala, about 20 kilometres from Kurunegala town, earlier belonged to an ex-UNP minister. The felled coconut trees were also to be used to build a platform for a political meeting at Korakahawatte, Makulwewa.
Residents have expressed shock at the destruction of such a large number
of productive trees. "A bulldozer came and flattened the area. We didn't
know what was happening. Later we came to know that the VVIP was arriving,"
said a resident who did not want to be identified, obviously because he
was afraid of the consequences.
By Roshan PeirisThe MEP which has kept out of the North Western Provincial council elections, is accusing both the PA and the UNP of indulging in political eye wash and gimmick to once again fool the people of Wayamba.
Party leader Dinesh Gunewardene in an interview with The Sunday Times, said he was shocked at the manner in which the PA especially was trying to win this prestigious election more by the bullet than the ballot. Excerpts:
Q: What do you think about President Kumaratunge's position in the NWP?
A: We are thoroughly disappointed. None of the major promises made in 1994 has been fulfilled. The President had much goodwill and got 62 percent of the vote in 1994 but what has she done? She gave much hope to the farmers, public servants, pensioners, the jobless youth and students. She has let down the whole lot.
The President is surrounded by incompetent men both in the Cabinet and as advisers. She is making new promises in Wayamba and we fear these will go the same way as the others.
Q: Why did the MEP keep out of the Wayamba elections?
A: We were ready and willing earlier to contest elections for five provinces. But the government suppressed those elections using emergency regulations. We have been agitating for those elections to be held but it was not done. Thus we decided to keep out of Wayamba. We also felt there would be fraud and violence when everything was concentrated in one area. We did not wish to be a party to such a fraud.
Q: How do you see the situation in Wayamba now?
A: We knew the NWP elections would not be free and fair. We see it now. It is being decided by the bullet rather than the ballot. The PA postponed elections in other provinces and selected Wayamba for its own benefits.
Q: Why do you say that?
A: The PA wanted to concentrate the whole government machinery and to use all the pressure at its command. The PA wants to show its strength, so it is putting everything into it.
The trend of violence is increasing and now we see poll cards being robbed, besides intimidation and threats. The Election Commissioner is helpless.
Q: Will you keep out of other provincial elections also?
A: We are hoping to run in other Provincial elections. But we feel that the Provincial Council system as a whole is a white elephant contributing to waste and inefficiency.
The MEP is an active party with its programme on all policies consisting of political, economic, social and cultural issues. We are carrying on with our programme and propaganda campaign to give the people an honest and fair deal. The UNP did not keep its promises for 17 years. The PA is doing the same.
Their new promises are merely an eyewash or a gimmick to win the elections.
They are trying to mislead the people again.
By Niroshan GodellagePresident Chandrika Kumaratunga has claimed that the number of persons killed in the UNP era of terror was much higher than the number of soldiers killed in Prabhakaran's war in the North and East.
"Due to Prabhakaran's war 15,000 soldiers and police officers sacrificed their lives. During J.R.'s, Premadasa's and Ranil's era of terror 50,000 people died. The number that died in the UNP's era of terror is far greater than the number that died in Prabhakaran's war."
"Anybody who knows what happened during the UNP regime will never vote for it again," she told a PA election rally at the Kuliyapitiya Technical College grounds.
The President said the Batalanda Commission Report to be released shortly would expose all persons involved in torturing youth and killing innocent people.
The Commission on Disappearances has identified the persons responsible for some 2000 cases of disappearances in the North Western Province and the government would take action against those found guilty, she said.
"The same persons who reigned by terror are today asking the people to vote for them," she said.
"The UNP was responsible for destroying the plantation sector, illegally acquiring land, excessive expenditure on Gam Udawas and on obtaining commissions for various deals."
The President said Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had questioned what development activities the PA had carried out in Wayamba.
The President recalled that several concessions provided to farmers
in the 1970-77 period were taken away in 1977 when the UNP came into power.
When the PA returned to power in 1994 farmer loans amounting to Rs. 5,500
millions were waived.
By Dinith KarunaratnaUNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has vowed that he would not let President Chandrika Kumaratunga lead the youth of this country up the garden path as she did in 1994.
Addressing a series of meetings in Ridigama, Dodangaslanda, Dambadeniya, Naramwela and Yapahuwa, Mr. Wickremesinghe said the President came to office in 1994 by giving false promises to the youth but she would not be able to do so again.
Although she stole the future of the youth of this country in 1994, he would not let her steal their votes in 1999. President Kumaratunga and her government did nothing for the country during the past four and half years, he claimed.
"She duped the people with a plethora of lies and never fulfilled any of the promises given in the manifesto. Wealth had been amassed by those in power during the past four and a half years," he charged..
He asked whether the government had undertaken any development work or created employment opportunities." They talked of developing the South creating a Ruhunupura, building the Galle port creating employment for more than 10,000 youth. Were any of these fulfilled?" he asked.
"She brought business tycoons and investors from Malaysia and South Korea and told the country that she would be opening up industrial estates. Did she start any industry?" The whole economy of the country is in shambles. Big and small businessmen alike are finding it difficult to run their establishments. The common man is finding it difficult to make both ends meet, he said. The President promised that she would end the war and spend that money on development but instead 11,000 youths were sacrificed in the war. All they did was to earn through the war instead of trying to win the war.