Vanni franchise issue awaits resolution

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 February 2004, 02:20 GMT]
91,864 Tamil voters residing in Vavuniya, Mannar and Mullaitivu adminstrative divisions comprising the Vanni electoral district live in areas controlled by Liberation Tigers (LTTE) and face the prospect of being denied their franchise if the Election Commisioner fails to provide a suitable arrangement to locate the polling booths in accessible areas, political sources said.

Vanni electoral district has a voter list of 226,604 names assigned to 209 polling booths. 86 of these polling booths are designated to residents living in LTTE controlled areas.

In Vavuniya adminstrative district, 13,570 voters assigned to 13 polling stations live in LTTE areas. This includes, 4321 voters from 3 polling stations in Vavuniya district secretariat division, 8011 voters from 9 polling stations in Vavuniya North district secretariat division and 1338 voters from a single polling station in Venkala-Chettikulam district secretariat division.

Even the Sri Lankan constitution clearly acknowledges that sovereignty is inalienably vested in the people and is realised also through the exercise of the right of franchise. But on many occasions the Government of Sri Lanka has, in a deliberate, premeditated manner, deprived whole communities of Tamils the right to vote. Therefore we will have the moral right to realise our sovereignty independently if the Sri Lankan government denies us the franchise again.
Selvam Adaikalanathan, ex-TNA MP for Vanni



In Mannar administrative district, 25,777 voters assigned to 24 polling stations live in LTTE areas. This includes, 863 voters from a single polling station in Mannar district secretariat division, 10,972 voters from 8 polling stations in Musali district secretariat division, 1967 voters from 3 polling stations in Madu district secretariat division and 11,975 voters from 12 polling stations in Manthai West district secretariat division.

In the five district secretariat division of Mullaitivu administrative district, 52,517 voters from 49 polling stations live in LTTE controlled areas.

Since Sri Lanka Police officers in uniform are not permitted to enter LTTE areas, the issue of providing security to polling stations within LTTE area is under Election Commissioner's purview to resolve. Since, Sri Lankan election law permits the Commissioner of Elections to relocate and cluster polling booths which are deemed by the Sri Lankan security forces to be in an area where they cannot ensure security for the polling, the officials are considering viable options that satisfy security concerns and still allow voters to exercise their franchise.

The authorities have to confront the logistical nightmare of accomodating movement of large number of people through SLA checkpoints in Uyilankulam and Omanthai if all booths are relocated to SLA controlled areas.

Sources say that SLA checkpoints in Omanthai, Uyilankulam and Madu Road allow only 300 people per hour through the stations. This rate is clearly insufficient to permit more than 25,777 residents in LTTE areas who have to cross the Madu/Uyilankulam checkpoints to vote. Similarly, 66,087 voters have to cross Omanthai from Vavuniya, Mullaitivu districts to vote during the election day.

“Even the Sri Lankan constitution clearly acknowledges that sovereignty is inalienably vested in the people and is realised also through the exercise of the right of franchise. But on many occasions the Government of Sri Lanka has, in a deliberate, premeditated manner, deprived whole communities of Tamils the right to vote. Therefore we will have the moral right to realise our sovereignty independently if the Sri Lankan government denies us the franchise again,” said Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan, ex Tamil National Alliance MP for the Vanni and leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation.

In the 2001 elections, 22 Vavuniya pollling stations were transferred to Sri Lanka army held part of the district and clustered in five centres and 35 polling booths of Mannar were relocated from the original venues to nine centres in that part of the district controlled by the SLA. In Mullaitivu polling was not conducted except for 996 Sinhalese in Ibbanweva, a state backed settlement in the southern corner of Mullaithivu where a single polling station was administered.

 

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