NWPC polls invalidated - monitors

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 January 1999, 20:50 GMT]
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in a statement issued today has said that today's elections for the North-western Provincial Council (NWPC) should be declared null and void due to the scale and magnitude of the violence that has been reported directly to CMEV and through the Police.

It has said that widespread election violations of every stripe are being reported mainly against the People's Alliance (PA) by CMEV monitors in the field, independent observers and opposition party sources in the election region today.

Following are excerpts of the communiqué issued by the CMEV:

"Charges of systematic voter intimidation, the removal of opposition polling agents through the use of force, the blatant stuffing of ballot boxes in full view of observers/monitors/voters, the physical assault of opponents and members of the Media, and the sheer brute force of the PA's violent presence in the vicinity of polling booths, have, in the considered view of CMEV, irrevocably undermined the validity of this elections as an exercise of the public's free and fair choice.

The scale of magnitude of the violence as reported both directly to CMEV and through the Police, other independent monitors and political parties is unprecedented for an election of its kind even in Sri Lanka's troubled past.

Moreover, this election is not taking place in the war arena nor is there a breakdown of civil society due to an insurrection of armed youth.

In comparison to the Government Elections of 1983, 1991 and 1997, as well as the 1993 Provincial Council Election, election day violence in the 1999 Wayamba (North-western Provincial Council Election) appear to be greater in magnitude and scope.

The Police appears to be unwilling and unable to check the violence. In a number of the more serious incidents, they too were among the by-standers, and have expressed feelings of frustration and helplessness to CMEV monitors on the spot.

The Government seems to have pinned its faith in the end result of all this violence fraud, oblivious to the toll on its own credibility and the very democratic electoral processes that brought it into power.

Reports received by CMEV have cited senior PA Ministers and party stalwarts as aiding and abetting the election violations, notably Kingsley Wickremaratne, D.M.Jayaratne, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Nandimitra Ekanayake, Jeevan Kumaranatunge, Hector Bethinage (Chairman of Kaduwel a Pradeshiya Sabah) and Chandra de Silva Mayor of Kotte Urban Council.

A total of approximately 125 complaints have been received, of which 41 are Police complaints and the balance direct reports to CMEV.

In addition CMEV monitors in over 50 polling stations have rendered the polling in at least these stations meaningless polling agents have been intimidated into leaving the station, thus providing undisturbed access to illegal voters.

An example of the type of election violation recorded from Puttalam can be seen from the following incident reported to CMEV from one of its own monitors who was an eye-witness.

At approximately 1.45 p.m. a crowd of approximately 100 PA supporters jumped over the wall to enter Station No.5 (Weaving Centre), sent the officials including the police out, "polled" 10 bundles of votes within a space of 25 minutes.

In Station No.7 which is located PA candidate M.H.M.Navavi's residence, approximately 30 PA supporters led by Minister D.M.Jayaratne allegedly attempted to cast illegal votes.

Moreover, due to the quick action of the Presiding Officer who locked up the ballot boxes and the support extended by the Police on duty, the Minister and his gang had left the premises allegedly threatening to have all the officials concerned punished.

In the Kurunagala district approximately 50 incidents have been reported directly to CMEV.

At least 5 Polling Stations in Polgahawela area appear to have been a mockery, with PA candidate Tikiri Banda Adhikari allegedly polling approximately 150 illegal votes according to CMEV monitors who were eye-witness to the incident.

The Police in the vicinity remained passive onlookers. Mr.Adhikari is also alleged to have distributed ballot papers outside the polling stations.

In Wariyapola, CMEV monitors report that when the Police dispersed the crowd outside the polling booth near the Wariyapola Police Station, the Police were threatened by a group of PA supporters that if they came out again they (Police) would be shot at.

The Police have been ordered by the PA Chief Minister candidate S.B.Nawinna, to ground all Police mobile units, "otherwise they would be shot at".

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who was present at Mr.Nawinna's residence when CMEV monitors visited in order to obtain confirmation of this statement, said that he was unaware of the incident.

CMEV monitors confirm that all Police vehicles remain in the station.

The three polling booths at the polling centre at the National School at Mawathagama were closed at 08.30 am today, just one and a half hours after it opened for voting.

According to the Presiding Officer and the Police at the centre, about 150 PA supporters armed with T56 automatic rifles and other weapons surrounded the centre and ordered the Police to stand aside. Then they proceeded to stuff the ballot boxes.

The Presiding Officer told CMEV monitors that his official stamp was taken away by the intruders. Voters of the area were unable to cast their vote due to this incident."

CMEV was formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Political Violence as an independent and non partisan organisation to monitor the incidents of election-related violence.

The communiqué was signed by its three members Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuthu, Waruna Karunatilake and Dr.Aruna Parakrama.


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