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Among the most blatant malpractices at Friday's local election was the case at a Veyangoda booth where there were 1501 registered voters but 1559 people had cast votes, election officials said. The obvious rigging at the Sri Bodhi Mayalarama booth was discovered when votes were being counted at the Gampaha Kachcheri.According to a complaint made to Veyangoda police a UNP polling agent had allegedly been forced to leave the booth apparently to give the 58 extra voters a free hand.
Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) chief and Cabinet Minister S. Thondaman said yesterday that the people in the Congress heartland of Nuwara Eliya had responded negatively to the party due to the government failure to fulfil the aspirations of the estate workers.
The CWC contested under its own cockerel symbol for the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council and under other symbols in other areas. That had apparently backfired, Mr. Thondaman told The Sunday Times in explaining the party's debacle in the district.
Mr. Thondaman said that overall the estate workers had been neglected and even the recent decision to hand over ownership of the line-rooms to worker co-operatives had really been taken by the UNP regime while the PA Government had delayed its implementation for more than two years.
He said the CWC had wanted to contest in all areas under its own symbol cockerel and build national unity, but that did not work.
He believed that a last minute campaign by the UNP in the area had been effective and drawn voters.
Oral submissions were made in the criminal defamation case filed against The Sunday Times Editor, before Colombo High Court Judge Upali de Z. Gunawardene on Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Solicitor General Rienzie Arseculeratne said that the words in the allegedly defamatory Gossip Column referred to the President going 'in the heat of the night' to a bachelor's flat', 'stayed for 90 minutes', 'had food not from the Hilton while allegedly being at the Oberoi', indulged in 'Epicurean tastes' and all these put together showed the President in an immoral manner.
He said the words similar to 'heat of the silent night' appeared in an editorial and that in any event the Editor was liable under the Press Council Law for whatever is published because otherwise anyone could write something and nobody could be liable in law.
Thilak Marapana PC, summing up for the defence said this is an article that would have been read and forgotten if not for this case that has lasted over a year. This is much ado about nothing.
The biggest disservice anyone could have done the President was to have filed this case and have all types of remarks made about the Epicurean tastes in the process.
Mr. Marapana said that not even one per cent of the readers would have known the meaning of Epicurean tastes and that when there are more than one possible meaning to a word, it is established law that the courts must not strain to take the bad one.
He said that it was for the first time in the prosecution's submissions that he heard that some of the words in the article denoted immoral conduct of the part of the President.
Only a pervert can come to such a conclusion. The test must be what conclusion a reasonable reader with average intelligence would come to.
He said that the fact that the prosecution has indicted the Editor on two counts clearly shows that the prosecution itself is not certain whether the Editor is the writer and that is why the indictment has the alternate charge under the Press Council Law.
Further submissions were put off for April 24.
People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and the Movement for Free and Fair Elections (MFFE), were compiling a report on the election monitoring carried out by them, a spokesman for PAFFREL said yesterday.
The MFFE and PAFFREL jointly conducted an independent monitoring of the local government elections and teams were deployed in all the Municipal Council areas and selected Urban Council and Pradeshiya Sabha areas.
Yesterday they were compiling and analysing the information they had received from their monitors.
According to the two organizations they had received complaints of violations of election law, including intimidation of polling agents, impersonation and harassment from certain areas.
TELO leader Sri Kantha said yesterday that disatisfaction of the Tamil people with the government had gone in favour of the UNP in the Colombo Municipal Council election. He told The Sunday Times the CMC poll was a negative vote. TELO was the only Tamil group that contested the elections.
Although it failed to muster sufficient number of votes to gain entry to the Colombo Municipal Council, its leader maintained. "As far as our party is concerned, we have highlighted the sufferings of our people in the Colombo Municipal election." To that extent we are satisfied with our efforts", the TELO leader said.
In one of the most violent and hectic campaigns for a local election, the number of incidents has reached a fearful 2000 - with almost a thousand of them involving the PA and 500 being attributed to the UNP, election monitors said on Friday as polling ended.
Addressing a news conference in Colombo non-governmental election monitors said another disturbing feature was the apparent police inaction in more than 90% of the cases.
Dr. Arjuna Parakrama of the centre for the monitoring of election violence said that despite an all-party plea and warnings by the government of severe penalties against those carrying illegal firearms, the use of such weapons continued unabated during the polls campaign.
Some 75 incidents of election violence involved the use of illegal firearms with PA supporters allegedly being responsible for more than 35 of those. Seven killings were reported during the campaign, including the Ellawala assasination which set off a chain of arson, looting and other incidents.
Underlining the seriousness of this criminalisation of politics, Dr. Parakrama pointed out that in the 1991 local election campaign only some 400 incidents were reported while in the 1993 Provincial Council elections the number of incidents was around 530 - most of them of a minor nature.
In contrast nearly 1000 of the incidents reported in the current campaign were of a serious nature.
Giving a regional breakdown of the increasingly violent trends in politics, Dr. Parakrama said the highest number of incidents in the current campaign were reported from Kandy (177), and Matale (173) while Colombo South appeared to be the most peaceful with only some 10 incidents.
Among the other areas high in the table of election violence were Ratnapura (111), Anuradhapura (96), Kurunegala (95) Kelaniya (84), Chilaw (82) and Galle (82).
Dr. Parakrama lamented that from what the centre had learnt the police seemed to have taken no significant action except in a pathetically low one percent of the cases - that means action in only 20 of the nearly 2000 cases.
Special traffic arrangements have been made for Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat's visit. The movement of vehicles on Monday and Tuesday will be interrupted for short durations in Kollupitiya, Cinnamon Gardens and the Galle Face Centre Road, police said.
SSP Traffic Colombo, Camillus Abeygoonawardene said that traffic will be interrupted on Galle Face Centre Road on Monday between 10.30 am and 11.30 am and on Tuesday between 10.00 am and 11.00 am.
Traffic in the Cinnamon Gardens and Kollupitiya areas is likely to be affected tomorrow as the motorcade carrying President Arafat would pass these areas. Parking of motor vehicles on Galle Face Centre Road and on Sir Macan Markar Mawatha will also be prohibited during these times.
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