Polls monitors decry lawlessness

It’s business as usual as intra-party violence, abuse of State resources dominate polls campaigns
By Mirudhula Thambiah

Election monitors have reported several cases of election related violence in the lead up to local government polls. Fifty six incidents of election related violence have been reported up to yesterday, Director- People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Rohana Hettiarachchi said.
These include incidents of shooting, assault and intimidation.

PAFFREL has also received complaints of misuse of State resources. “Most of the incidents reported were from the Southern Province, from Galle, Matara and Ratnapura. Colombo Kandy and Kalutara too have been affected by violence” he added.

According to PAFFREL reports, 22 victims of intra-Party violence have been hospitalized, of which 16 are with serious injuries. PAFFREL urged political parties to take disciplinary action against their members engaging in violence. He said the role of the police too is vital in this connection.

“Though the police are trying to conduct awareness programmes regarding the practice of election laws, not many are interested in participating,” said Mr. Hettiarachchi. Meanwhile, the Campaign for Free & Fair Elections (CaFFE) had recorded a total of 97 incidents of election related violence.

Director- CaFFE, Keerthi Tennakoon said that their monitoring of the Northern Province has shown that there is no political freedom in the area, with political parties not conducting healthy campaigns in Jaffna and Killinochchi.

“There is no election fever, the people of Jaffna and Kilinochchi are expecting a postponement of the elections, since the UPFA has filed petitions in courts, after the rejections of its election candidates list in Jaffna and Kilinochchi, where the people expect the courts to give judgments in favour of the UPFA” he said.

Although political parties are involved in better election campaigns in the Wanni District, compared with Jaffna and Kilinochchi, there are restrictions on freedom of expression and no campaigns are taking place at the newly resettled areas, Mr. Tennakoon revealed.

Mr. Tennakoon said that people are not resettled in five particular polling stations in Puthukuddiyiruppu, and another five more polling stations at the Mariumpattu Pradeshiya Sabha. Therefore these people will not be able to exercise there voting rights.

“There are more than 8,000 people still in IDP camps in Chettikulam and other areas. They will be disfranchised. How will the voting rights of these people be ensured?” He said. “There is a huge misuse of election laws in Beruwala, Nawalapitiya, Horana and Akkaraipattu”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Northern Province will have elections in 32 Local Authorities after nearly one-and-half decades, therefore, PAFFREL has planned to conduct various awareness programmes. “There are 89,000 IDPs from the war. Among them, at least 4,000 will be able to cast there votes at the forthcoming Local Government elections,” Mr. Hettiarachchi revealed.

The Elections Commissioner will not be able to make arrangements for the IDPs to cast their votes under the Local Authority Act, therefore, the respective political parties should write to the elections department to make arrangements for the IDPs to cast their votes at the forthcoming elections.

The political parties should consider this issue and PAFFREL urges the parties to bring up this issue at the Party Secretaries’ meeting to be held next Tuesday, February 22”, said Mr. Hettiarachchi.

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