PA chief perpetrator of polls violence- watchdog

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 September 2000, 12:06 GMT]
An independent body monitoring election violence in Sri Lanka said that the ruling party was the alleged perpetrator of 368 incidents, including arson and thuggery. According to a press release Tuesday by the Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), the Police have acted in a partisan manner in favour of ruling People's Alliance candidates in the districts of Puttalam, Kurunagala, Moneragala, Gampaha and Kandy and that a Police officer had attempted to take action against ruling party supporters has been transferred from his post.

The release further states:

"September 25th 685 incidents have been reported to CMEV in the run-up to the parliamentary election of October 10.

"Of these, 390 (57%) are major incidents which include 12 murders, 09 attempted murders, 101 acts of hurt, 16 reports of grievous hurt, 134 assaults, 82 acts of threat and intimidation, 18 cases of misuse of state resources, 03 robberies and 15 acts of arson. The relative preponderance of major incidents marks this election campaign as being comparatively more violent than others in the recent past".

"Moreover, for the first time since the local government election of 1997, a single party is allegedly responsible for over 50% of the total number of incidents reported. The PA is the alleged perpetrator in 368 incidents (53.7%), the UNP in 142 (20.7%), the JVP in 06, and persons of unknown political affiliation in 144 (21%). In contrast, the Wayamba Provincial Council election the PA was allegedly responsible for 45 % of all incidents reported, in the local elections for 46 %,and in the Presidential election for 48 %, while the UNP was accused in 22%, 24% and 26 % in these elections respectively".

"Supporters of the UNP have made 292 (42%) complaints, the PA 217 (31.7%), the JVP (13.3%) and persons of unknown political affiliation (05.7%). 42(19.4%) of the complaints lodged by the PA are directed against its own members. There are no complaints recorded, which reflected intra-party rivalry among any of other parties.

"The North-Western or Wayamba Province has recorded the highest number of complaints (128) closely followed by the Western Province (120). Together these two provinces account for 36.2% of all incidents reported. The lowest number of incidents has been reported from the North-East Province (54), Sambaragamuwa (62) and the Southern Province (74). In the North-Western province alone the PA is allegedly responsible for 73 incidents, which is higher than the total number reported from two provinces and almost equal to another two.

"At approximately 2.00 a.m. on September 25, 2000 the UNP office of Gampaha District candidate Gamini Gunaretna was attacked, resulting in damage to the building, furniture and equipment. A motor cycle and a bicycle kept on the premises, as well as many files, posters and other documents, were dumped in the large pond, which lies at the center of the compound. The premises called Araliya Uyana belong to Mr.Anura Bandaranaike, and it is situated on the main Colombo-Kandy Road, within Horagolla, virtually opposite the People's Alliance office.

"The watcher of the premises, Mr.Saparamadu, informed CMEV that 04 persons had held him at gunpoint while approximately 15-20 others had ransacked the offices. According to him these four persons carried two-way radios and brandished pistols, forcing him to remain silent while they systematically trashed the office and meeting hall areas. Mr.Saparamadu said that the entire incident lasted approximately 45 minutes, and that the attackers appeared to him to be professionals in what they did. He stated that he would be able to identify those who held him captive if he saw them again, and added that he though they were members of security forces. Mr.Saparamadu said that the attackers came in 02 land rovers and 02 double cabs, which were parked, on the Kandy Road in the direction of Colombo. Mr.Saparamadu has made a complaint in this regard to the Police Headquarters. A leaflet supporting PA Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was found at the scene of the crime, and has been handed over to the Nittambuwa Police.

"Mr.Vijitha D Kumasaru, HQI Nittambuwa police Station, informed CMEV that 100 police personnel had been deployed in the area surrounding the Horagolla Walauwe since September 15th as security for September 25 SWRD Bandaranaike commemoration meeting. The heightened security presence in the area, the prominent location of the office and its proximity to the Bandaranaike ancestral residence as well as the People's Alliance office, the extent of the damage as well as the alleged time taken all point to the perpetrators being persons who behaved as if they have some immunity from prosecution.

"HQI Kumasaru stated that President Chandrika had asked him for a report on the incident. When contacted at approximately 9.30 a.m., PA candidate Susil Premjayanth informed CMEV that he was unaware of the incident, while Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who heads the PA list for the Gampaha district, was unavailable for comment.

"The JVP held a protest rally against alleged police partisanship in Matale town at 11.00 a.m on September 25th,which was tear-gassed by the Matale Police in front of the police station. A crowd of approximately 500 protestors, who were present at the time, regrouped at the central bus stand in order to hold a meeting. At about 11.55 a.m., the police allegedly attacked this gathering under the direction of HQI K.C.Hapuarachchi. Mr.A.D.Srideva (45) from Ratupitya, Kurunegala, received gunshot injuries in the melee and is now warded in the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital undergoing an emergency operation which was not complete at 11.45 p.m. on September 25th.

"HQI Hapuarachchi told CMEV that his gun went off as a result of one of the protestors fighting with him at the bus stand. The police also allege that the JVP protestors hurled stones and bottles at them, which was denied by the JVP. Shop owners in the vicinity told CMEV that the JVP rally was non-violent.

"Matale Police have arrested 14 protestors so far, including JVP Wayamba Provincial Council member Bimal Ratnayake and JVP Central Provincial Councillor Dimuthu Bandara Abeyakoon, both of who are candidates at the forthcoming election".

"CMEV has recorded an incident of political victimization in which a police officer has been transferred as he did not turn a blind eye upon the illegal actions of PA candidate Cleetus Mendis's supporters. Chief Inspector Dehideniya declined to speak to CMEV regarding his transfer, but the residents of the area feel strongly that he was victimized for standing up for their rights despite being subjected to political pressure.

"CMEV wishes to highlight this example since the impartiality and even-handedness of the police is a sine qua non for the conduct of a free and fair election in the country".

The press release was signed by Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Bandula Padmakumara and Dr. Arjuna Parakrama.

CMEV was formed in 1997 by the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA). The Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Against Political Violence as an independent and non-partisan organization to monitor the incidence of election-related violence.

 

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