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The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

23rd, March 1997




FMM challenges tight lipped monitors

The two leading non-governmental groups monitoring the local election on Friday were tight lipped about alleged incidents of violence and malpractices - with one official reportedly saying they cannot disclose anything now

The free media movement in a statement said the two monitoring groups - the People's Alliance for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) and the Movement for Free and Fair Election (MFFE) had refused to give information to media groups and the FMM had received many complaints regarding this.

When BBC Sinhala service correspondent Elmo Fernando contacted PAFFREL regarding the incident on Friday, an official, Kingsley Rodrigo, reportedly told him nothing could be revealed now because "we have to worry about our future".

The FMM has strongly urged PAFFREL and MFFE which are people's organisations to fulfil their responsibility and inform the people immediately through the media of the information in their possession pertaining to election violence and malpractices.

A statement released by the PAFFREL and the MFFE to the media on Friday states that while they have received complaints and reports of violations including intimidation of polling agents, impersonation and harassment, "we are not in a position to give any figures and we will be unable to arrive at any general conclusions regarding the elections until we have reports from all monitoring groups. In the best interest of everyone concerned PAFFREL and MFFE have therefore decided to refrain from issuing any statement regarding the election until tomorrow, they said.

The FMM however is not satisfied that the reason given by the groups for the delay is either real or valid in the light of what a PAFFREL official had told the BBC correspondent.

Medical services for polls victims

A special medical service is in operation since Friday at the National Hospital Colombo to treat those injured in political violence during the election

"We thought it was an essential service at a time like this," said Deputy Director Dr. Hector Weerasingha. Apart from the medical staff at the hospital, volunteers are also helping out to see to the needs of the injured. The St. John's ambulances have been voluntarily given for the service

By Friday four victims of polls violence reported to the hospital one from Wellampitiya two from Maligawatta and the other from Mattakkuliya. However, at outstation hospitals more than 75 persons had been treated.

Police doubtful of Sajith's calls

Police are expressing serious doubts about complaints made by Sajith Premadasa, son of the late President Premadasa, that 12 UNP election offices at Suriyawewa in the Hambantota district were set ablaze during the local elections.

Suriyawewa police said their investigations revealed there were only eight UNP offices in the area and only one temporary office had been damaged.

They said they were looking into allegations that Mr. Premadasa, a UNP organiser of the area or his supporters had made a false complaint to the election office.

'We were denied civic rights'

By Kshalini Nonis

Hundreds of residents of Colombo city and the suburbs charged they had been denied their civic rights yesterday in not being allowed to vote at the local elections because of the incompetence or inefficiency of officials.

Several residents told The Sunday Times they had not received their poll cards though they had duly filled in and handed over the householders lists to the area's grama sevaka.

When inquiries were made they were told to go with the national identity cards to the polling booths where they would be allowed to vote if their names were registered.

But what they received at the polling booths was not co-operation in exercising their sovereign right but a case of indifference and buck-passing where they were driven from official to official and finally drew a blank.

One angry resident explained the situation:

"When we went to the polling station the elections staff went through the registers and told us we cannot vote since our names were not on the register. When we questioned them they said they could do nothing about the matter and to take it up with the Senior Presiding Office (SPO).

"When we met the person, who was supposed to be the SPO he told us that he cannot do anything and the matter had to be taken up with the grama sevaka. When we went to the Grama Sevaka, he told us it was the fault of the former grama sevaka. When we asked to see the register he said the typists do not make mistakes, and therefore there is no point in checking it.

"The residents said the buck-passing officials had individually and collectively denied the people of their primary democratic right. Other residents charged there was some deliberate political motivation behind it.

Another irate resident said, "first I did not want to vote because I felt most of them are rogues but when I decided to vote I could not vote.

"Hard and clean, on or off the field

C.R. de Silva, Additional Solicitor General will take his oaths as President's Counsel on Thursday, March 27.

Mr. de Silva has had a distinguished career at the Attorney General's Department which he joined in 1975, after passing out as an attorney in 1974. He was appointed Senior State Counsel in 1983, Deputy Solicitor General in 1992 and promoted to Additional Solicitor General in 1996, in which post he handles all the important criminal cases under the A. G.'s Department.

Mr. de Silva is a respected figure in legal circles and well-known for upholding the traditions of justice and fairplay both within the A. G.'s Department as well as in court. He has been appearing in the Original and Appeal Court right through his career of twenty-two years at the Bar.

Among the more noteworthy trials he has prosecuted in are the Fr. Singarayar case, the Shyama Dedigama appeal, the Deputy Commissioner of Examinations forgery of G. C. E. A' level and O' level results case and the Mannar Mannan case where the effects of mis-direction by a trial judge to the jury were considered.

He was also responsible for arguing a case before the Supreme Court where a new dimension was given in relation to punishment in drug laws in the country. He also appeared as junior to Tilak Marapana, P. C. in the Fr. Mathew Pieris case.

A keen sportsman, Mr. de Silva showed early signs of leadership qualities. He captained his alma mater Royal College's rugby team which went on to win the Bradby Shield in 1968. He also captained the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby team in the same year.

He was reputed to have played hard and clean as a ruggerite, a quality he later displayed as state prosecutor.

'A job done well'

Election observers monitored Friday local government polls successfully, said a spokesman.

Except for a few minor incidents they had been able to carry out their mission successfully, he said.

More than 10,000 observers comprising members of the PAFFREL (Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections), MFFE (Media for Free and Fair Elections), Sarvodaya and several other NGO's monitored the elections, deploying two observers at each polling booth, while several mobile units were also operated.

According to an MFFE spokesman, several unconfirmed reports of incidents of intimidation, were received from various areas mainly Attanagalla and in Negombo.It was alleged that a candidate had gone around in an intimidating manner. In Kurunegala it was alleged, that some polling agents had been chased off.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - * Rigging in V'goda, * Thonda blames his fall on Government, * Much ado about nothing: Marapana, * Report being prepared, * PA failed in its target-TELO, * Violence reaches peak while police drag feet, * Traffic arrangements for Arafat's visit, * HOW THE COUNTRY VOTED ON A DISTRICT BASIS:

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