Clustered booths enable rigging -TULF
[TamilNet, Monday, 29 October 2001, 19:33 GMT]
The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) has complained to the Commissioner of Elections that adequate attention has not been paid to the difficulties of Tamil voters when deciding upon polling stations in the Trincomalee district. Several polling stations are to be clustered near Mahindapura Sri Lanka Army camp and at Muttur Al Hidaya Maha Vidyalayam (school) for about 14,000 Tamil voters, said Mr.R.Sampanthan, the party's Secretary General.
Mr.R.Sampanthan, in a three page letter to the Commissioner of Elections has listed several serious shortcoming in the location of polling stations for Tamil voters.
The location of present clustered polling stations near Mahindapura Sri Lanka Army camp in Serunuwara division and at Muttur Al Hidaya Maha Vidyalayam could only result in the vast majority of the voters from Kaddaiparichchan, Chenaiyoor, Sampur, Koonitheivu, Illakanthai, Nallur, Eechilampathai, Vallaithoddam and Karukamunai not exercising their franchise on account of the grave inconvenience due to transport problem as they have to travel about 4 to 10 km, said Mr.Sampanthan.
Clustering of booths, according to election officials, is done to ensure that adequate security is provided to booths and voters.
However, critics of clustering polling stations say that on every occasion clustering has been resorted to, the overbearing presence of the military has intimidated voters and has led to election malpractice such as stuffing votes and intimidation of election officials.
"The cumulative impact of these serious shortcomings in regard to the critical question of polling can be very damaging to Tamil representation in parliament from the Trincomalee district," Mr. Sampanthan pointed out in his letter.
Mr.Sampanthan told Elections Chief that "security concerns could be addressed by soliciting the support of non-governmental organisations, and monitoring groups, both national and international, which could ensure a smooth poll without any disturbance when locating polling stations in areas which are not under the control of state armed forces."
The distance to a polling station from their residences is important in this regard, and the present arrangements have a very damaging impact on the voting rights of Tamil voters, Mr.Sampanthan said.
"If the poll is to be conducted in a fair and impartial manner it is very essential that the shortcomings listed in my letter are remedied before the polling stations are gazetted," stressed Mr.Sampanthan.