Rigging said underway in PC elections

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 January 1999, 08:45 GMT]
Supporters and thugs of the ruling People's Alliance (PA) rigged polls and intimidated Tamil voters in many parts of the northwestern province this morning said election officials in Kurunagala.

A member of the opposition United National Party (UNP) was wounded when he was shot at by a heavily armed PA group at the St.Sebastian school polling centre in Wellawa in Chilaw this morning.

Independent election monitors said that Sri Lanka's Transport minister A.H.M Fowzie's son and a large number of his armed supporters had raided all the polling booths in Kalpitiya in the Puttlalam district this morning.

They had stuffed the ballot boxes with votes for the PA after chasing away the polling agents of the other parties.

Armed PA gangs scared off Tamil estates workers in Mawathagama and Kuliyapitiya in the Kurunagala district who had gone to vote this morning after grabbing all their polling cards.

Voters from the Tamil villages of Mundal and Udappu in the Puttalam district found that their votes had been already cast by PA thugs when they went to polling booths in their area this morning.

Hundreds of polling cards robbed from voters were used for the purpose by these gangs said returning officers. Impersonation was also rampant in the Muslim-Tamil villages of Nuraicholai and Kalpity.

Armed PA gangs raided polling booths this morning at the Sirampiyadi Roman Catholic school, Galdhanthuwa Roman Catholic school, Dankotuwa girls' school and the Mogudimulla community centre in the Puttlalam district and stuffed ballot boxes with votes in the ruling party's favour.

The UNP and the New Left Front (NLF) complained that heavily armed PA gangs had forced their way into polling booths at Dodangaslanda, Bingiriya and Mawathagama in the Kurunagala district.

The PA goons had intimidated returning officers, filling ballot boxes with ballot papers taken forcibly from the booths after marking them in favour of the ruling party said NLF sources.

Complaints about widespread thuggery, intimidation and rigging by armed ruling party goon squads in many other parts of the province have been received said sources at Sri Lanka's Election Commissioner's office early this afternoon.

However, the Police in Kurunagala said that no one had complained to them about violence or rigging today.

Meanwhile, the PA's election coordinator and spokesman, Deputy Minister for Media, Anura Priyadharshna Yapa, lodged a strong complaint with the election authorities against the UNP today.

Mr.Yapa has alleged that the opposition's chief candidate had scolded PA supporters at the polling booth in Katugampola in the Kurunagala district this morning.

The Sri Lankan state radio said in its afternoon news bulletin that, according to the police, UNP supporters had prevented people from casting their votes at Kongahagoda, Werahera and Sri Rahula Maha Vidyalaya Hendalagama polling booths in the Katugampola electorate.

The radio said that the UNP Chief Ministerial candidate, Gamini Jayawickrema Perea, had been behind the several unruly incidents that had taken place in Katugampola.

It said that many UNPers were also engaged in impersonating in the Mawathagama electorate. Former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Nizam, is contesting on the UNP list there.

The radio said that several houses of the PA supporters were set ablaze.

Three vehicles used by the Deputy Minister of Post Telecommunication and Media, Anura Priyadharshana Yappah, were also burnt, the radio added.

It further said that PA supporters have been also engaged in disrupting elections.

Elsewhere, Mr. E.A.P.Edirisinghe, a UNP candidate, was critically injured when a group of PA supporters attacked and cut him with a shaving knife yesterday around 7 p.m. at Kiribawa in the Parakumpura area.

Edirisinghe had told the Police that he was returning home after inspecting a polling booth at Giribawa when the group stopped the car, pulled him out and attacked.


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