2nd December 2001

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Election 2001

  • Kandy's lull before the storm?
  • Early birds will prevent mischief
  • 100,000 ballot papers forged
  • Abolish criminal defamation laws, says IBA report
  • PA preparing to rig poll, alleges UNF
  • 21 injured in blast
  • Kandy's lull before the storm?

    By Chris Kamalendran
    Election fever has hit the Kandy city and its remote villages in a big way with UNP and PA activists engaging themselves in a frantic battle for votes. Not to be outdone, the JVP is trying to lure the floating votes to establish itself as a third force in the next parliament. 

    Posters, placards and coloured decorations have only one message in common. The competition is acute by any standards. A remarkable deviation is the group posters put up by the PA in contrast to the UNP campaign.

    Although the situation is calm, voters have not entirely forgotten the trauma they had undergone during the previous elections.

    General Anuruddha Ratwatte who is spearheading the PA campaign said he was confident that the incidents of violence would be less compared to the last year's elections. He also said the current campaign was not for individuals but for the People's Alliance. However, his supporters were seen busy putting up posters and cutouts in prominent places in the city.

    The mood in the villages was quite different. Some villagers said they feared their ballot papers might be grabbed by armed men on the election day.

    Meanwhile, police claimed the number of election-related incidents of violence was relatively low. However, Jayantha Rajapaksha, a middle-aged businessman and a UNP supporter at Hedeniya said he was allegedly assaulted by PA supporters and had to be hospita-lised.UNP candidate Keheliya Rambukwelle too has appealed to his supporters not to be provoked.

    "We cannot rule out the PA using its state powers to grab the votes. It might try to block our voters," he said.

    He also appealed to voters to cast their votes early to counter malpractices.

    Kandy district secretary Sumana Bandara Beddewela said no major incidents of violence had been reported and instructions had gone out to the Kandy police to be on the alert. He also said the deployment of additional troops or STF personnel might not be necessary during the elections.

    Early birds will prevent mischief

    Despite increasing violence and tension, all arrangements have been finalised for Wednesday's decisive general election with police advising voters to go to the booth as early as possible to prevent malpractices such as impersonation.

    Police elections chief Gamini Navaratne said they were doing their best to ensure a free poll and the public could cooperate by voting early.

    Wednesday's election has some 12 million eligible voters and 9.500 polling booths with first results from postal votes expected before midnight.

    100,000 ballot papers forged

    The UNP met with the Commissioner of Elections yesterday over the detection of some 100,000 forged ballot papers at Kitulgala.

    Police said two persons had been remanded after the forged ballots were detected while they were being transported in a vehicle belonging to the National Livestock Development Board.

    Investigations revealed the forged ballot papers were marked for three PA candidates contesting from the Nuwara Eliya district, but the suspects who were arrested at a checkpoint claimed that they were taking the ballots to be handed over to a PA national list candidate.

    One of the candidates for whom the preference vote had been marked, the PA's V. Puthirasigamany, told The Sunday Times he knew nothing about any such ballot papers. A senior police officer said they had faxed one of the seized ballot papers to the Elections Commissioner's office in Colombo from where confirmation came that it was a forgery.

    The two suspects who had come from Colombo were produced before the Ruwanwella magistrate and remanded till December 14.

    Abolish criminal defamation laws, says IBA report

    The International Bar Association following a brief mission to Sri Lanka in August has submitted recommendations to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to do away with criminal defamation law and encourage freedom of speech.

    At a presentation and discussion of the IBA report yesterday, President's Counsel Ranjith Abeysooriya said defamation laws had to be removed from the statute to allow the media to independently report on matters of public interest. He said local newspaper reports showed a stark contrast from one another and that a climate of fear had forced some to exercise self-censorship.

    The IBA report noted that criminal defamation laws were contrary to the fundamental human rights set out in the constitution and were an affront to a free media. The report also condemned the harassment and interrogation by the security forces as a means of restricting free speech. 

    In its recommendations, the IBA suggested that a National Press Association be set up free of party affiliations comprising a diverse range of members from both within and outside the industry. The report also suggested the setting up of a National Advisory Council, independent of Government and any new constitutional commission, to report annually on the media and their relationship with the Government, Parliament and the people.

    See: The IBA voices concern over independence of judiciary - Focus on Rights

    PA preparing to rig poll, alleges UNF

    By Nilika de Silva
    The United National Front yesterday accused the PA of preparing an illegal onslaught on the election, with state media staff granted special leave, artillery fire to intimidate voters in Vavuniya and Trincomalee and the distribution of forged ballot papers.

    The United National Front had met Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake last afternoon to stress that "extreme vigilance is necessary in view of what has transpired".

    "In the final session with the Elections Commissioner we will raise these matters to ensure that the will of the people is genuinely reflected in the outcome of the parliamentary elections," UNF spokesman Prof. G.L. Peiris told a media conference last morning.

    UNP spokesman Dr. Karunasena Kodi-tuwakku stated that Anuruddha Ratwatte is planning to use a massive number of forged ballot cards. Many workers have opted for postal votes and are planning to travel to Kandy on election day to rig the election there. "We must take action on their plan to use SLTB buses to travel to Kandy on election day," he said.

    President Kumaratunga's visit to the DIG's office with Salinda Dissanayake on Friday to order the arrest of four UNPers in the Kurunegala district is "unprecedented in the political history of our country," Prof. Peiris said. 

    A Fundamental Rights petition would be filed tomorrow morning, Prof. Peiris added.

    Only 70 employees who are considered PA supporters would be permitted to work at the Rupavahini Corporation from Monday until the election is over, Prof. Peiris alleged. 

    They would receive instructions from President's House. A similar plan would be put into effect at SLBC and Lake House in violation of election laws, Prof. Peiris further alleged.

    Navy personnel have been stationed at Lake House, Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku also alleged.

    21 injured in blast

    At least 21 persons were injured when two powerful time bombs went off destroying an EPDP office in the Batticaloa town on Saturday, police said.

    They said the bombs had been placed in the reception area of the office.

    The EPDP had called volunteer development officers to pay them Rs. 3,000 each.

    Most of the injured were those who had called over to collect the money. 

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