KURUNEGALA: Voting in Kurunegala for the North Western Provincial Council election progressed at a slow pace and was tainted with incidents of intra- party election violence. Shamika who is a resident of Melsiripura and a supporter of Johan Fernando suffered a fracture on one hand and was treated at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital. He alleged he [...]


Intra-party incidents in UPFA while blatantly violating polls laws | North Western Provincial council elections


KURUNEGALA: Voting in Kurunegala for the North Western Provincial Council election progressed at a slow pace and was tainted with incidents of intra- party election violence. Shamika who is a resident of Melsiripura and a supporter of Johan Fernando suffered a fracture on one hand and was treated at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital. He alleged he was assaulted on the head and legs by several persons as he was coming out of an eating house in Melsiripura town to board his lorry at around 3 a.m.

Voters travel by tractor in Puttalam. Pic by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

“I tried to protect my head with my hands, but they broke my hand,” he lamented. He worked for candidate Johan Fernando, son of Minister Johnston Fernando. A powerful minister whose wife was contesting the election accompanied the group, he said.

“The minister was in one of the three vehicles,” he alleged. ”Had I not run back to the eating house they would have killed me. “

Although his face and legs too had sustained injuries due to the attack, the Police Post did not record any statement, he said.

Janaka, a resident of Delgollawatte, Melsiripura was another victim of election violence. A group lead by the same minister stormed into his house around 2.30 a.m.

According to him, the group broke open the front door and entered the house. They verbally abused my wife and searched for me. When they could not find me in the house they smashed my furniture and the TV, Janaka alleged. Janaka said that after he complained to the Gokarella Police a senior police officer from Kurunegala visited his house.

Kurunegala DIG Sarath Kumara did not comment but asked him to contact Gokarella police as he was busy. The Gokarella police too made no comment. UNP Chief Ministerial candidate Shamal Prasanna Senerath charged that the Government without giving any concession to the people after the war ended, asked their vote instead.

The Government was lavishly spending people’s money on the Commonwealth Head’s Summit making people even poorer. However, the UNP leadership was able to maintain party discipline so that there were no conflicts among the candidates, he said.

The UPFA did not have a chief ministerial candidate. Three of its candidates are aspiring for the post and this made their supporters victims, he pointed out. UPFA candidate Johan Fernando said he will get the highest preferential votes and become the Chief Minister.

“Anybody could claim anything, but people will make the decision,” he said when it was pointed that Dayasiri Jayasekera was tipped to be the Chief Minister.  “It was Dayasiri who says he was tipped by the President to be the Chief Minister,” Mr. Fernando argued and said the President had clearly said the candidate who obtained the most number of votes would be appointed the Chief Minister.

On polling day: Dambulla Police paint over election slogans. Pic by Kanchana Kumara

He predicted a land slide victory for the UPFA. JVP group leader Namal Karunaratne charged the Government has blatantly violated election laws. He said ruling party candidates displayed their preferential numbers on their vehicles. He also alleged that Police have failed to remove posters of the ruling party candidates.

“We will win more seats this time,” he said adding that the JVP is giving people the leadership in their struggle to win their demands.  The usually bustling Kurungegala town was virtually empty yesterday. The election monitoring body PAFFREL said the voter turn out was around 50% in the polling booths in the town but was as low as 20% in the villages by noon yesterday.

Ruwan Mallawaarachchi of Kurunegala, a voter at the Maliyadeva Model School polling centre said he voted for the UPFA which would win the election. He also said he voted for more politically mature candidates. Another voter at the Tamil and Hindu Kanishta Vidyalaya in Wilbawa who wished to remain anonymous said that she voted for the opposition since the Government has already broken all its promises and gave the poor people nothing but ‘high prices’ for everything.

Less than half brave UPFA intimidation to vote in Puttalam

A low voter turnout and sporadic instances of election related violence were the highlights of the polls in the Puttalam district, which had 389 polling stations, along with 19 stations for refugees, manned by 3,600 officials. It also had 55 counting centres manned by 2,200 officers.

By 3 pm yesterday, only 42% of the voters had turned up in what appeared to be a low turnout compared with previous elections in the district. The Puttalam district has 526,408 eligible voters, with a total of 437 candidates from 12 parties and 11 independent groups contesting.

“The polls here were peaceful compared with most other districts. There were several incidents reported but none of them were serious,” said District Secretary, M. Kensley Fernando. Voters in urban areas of the district were eager to cast their votes, while those in rural areas were hesitant.

Wanathawilluwa with 10 polling booths, had a voter turnout of only 15% by yesterday noon, whereas the polling booth at St. Peters Technical College, Thibilla, witnessed many eager voters, predominantly females. Vehicles of the ruling party were seen speeding on the roads with posters and stickers of the candidates, despite a prohibition on display of symbols and numbers on election day.

The Sunday Times learnt that UNP voters showed greater interest for the election than UPFA supporters. There was also a strong support for the Democratic Party led by former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in Wennappuwa, Marawila and Suruveli areas.

It was reported that several UPFA supporters had threatened the people who came to vote, demanding they vote for the ruling party. In Wennappuwa, a group broke into houses of Opposition party supporters and caused damage. Commenting on the attack, the UNP General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake said that the group had entered the properties of their supporters around 1.30 am and threatened them from casting their votes.

“There were incidents where these groups had made supporters and their family members to kneel, and attacked them,” the General Secretary said in a statement. He also informed that an armed group headed by Parliamentarian Arundika Fernando had gone to polling stations and driven away UNP supporters, preventing them from casting their votes.

Complaints regarding these incidents have been reported to the police, election officials and local and foreign monitoring groups. In a separate incident, five UPFA supporters from Anamaduwa, Malgaswewa area, were apprehended with illegal election leaflets, and taken into custody along with the vehicle in which they were travelling.

Reports: Aanya Wipulasena & Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

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