Election Committee stands by findings

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 January 1999, 19:34 GMT]
Key members of three independent election monitoring committees have called upon the Elections Commissioner to hold the North-western Provincial Council election again. The announcement was made during a press conference held at the National Library Association in Colombo this morning.

Speaking at the conference members of the committe called upon the Commissioner to hold polling again in all of the 1136 centres if he had any qualms about the fairness or legality of the elections.

This press conference was convened jointly by People's Alliance For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and the Movement for Free and Fair Elections. A large number of media personnel attended the conference.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) supporters demonstrate outside city hall in the capital Colombo today, demanding that Monday's provincial election be scrapped. The opposition and independent observers have accused the ruling party of massive vote rigging to win the election. The JVP came third behind the mainstream opposition United National Party. photo-AP
The press conference was addressed by Dr.Arjuna Parakrama, Varuna Karuanatileka, Dr.Packiyasothi Saravanamuthu, Kingsley Rodrigo, Sunanda Deshapriya and Nimal Fernando the key members of the election monitoring committees.

The monitors said that the North-western Provincial Council held on January 25 was not free and fair. They stressed that the voting rights of the people of the North-Western province should be assured. "It is our duty" they said.

Responding to a question put by journalists on rumours that Senior Government Ministers were planning to file a criminal libel action against the election monitors, Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuthu said "We will stand by our reports and see what happens."

The panel went on to deny allegations made by the government that the election monitoring committees were working with the opposition party, the United National Party (UNP).

Members of the panel said further that during the 1994 election they had been accused by the UNP of working with the PA. The fact that both parties had accused them of bias towards the other proves the neutrality of the monitors, the panelists said.

The monitors went on to say that the Bishops of Puttalam and Kurunegala and senior members of the Buddhist clergy had joined with them in calling for a cancellation of the recent polls.

Responding to a question on the funding of monitoring committees, Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuthu said that the Asia Foundation, a recognised non governmental organisation provided funds for the CMEV. The other monitoring groups said that they received their funds from other non governmental organisations operating in the country.

Wimal Fernando, a member of the People's Alliance For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said that the "Pot is calling the kettle black" while referring to the question of the accusation of raising funds for the committees.

These committees were appointed by the Elections Commissioner to monitor the Northwestern Provincial Council elections to assure a free and fair election.

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