No franchise for Mullaithivu Tamils
[TamilNet, Monday, 09 October 2000, 21:10 GMT]
None of the Tamil voters in the Mullaithivu district will be able to vote in elections to Sri Lanka's eleventh Parliament Tuesday 10 October. They have been precluded from the polls due to a decision by the Sri Lankan government not to have any polling booths in the district except one for 996 Sinhalese in Ibbanweva, a state backed settlement in the southern corner of Mullaithivu. "This is tantamount to denying them the exercise of their sovereignty as Sri Lankan citizens through the franchise or, in real terms, disfranchising them" said a political analyst in Colombo Monday asked to comment on the Mullaithivu situation.
Meanwhile, the army closed all the entry points from the LTTE held Vanni region Monday and Tuesday. Voters from the LTTE controlled parts of the Mannar and Vavuniya districts for whom polling booths were relocated and clustered will not be able to come on Tuesday and cast their ballots as a consequence of the SLA decision to close the entry points, election officials in Vavuniya said.
There should have been fifty polling booths for the 51,058 Tamil voters in Mullaithivu district, an official of the Elections Department at the Vavuniya district secretariat said. The district is now controlled by the Liberation Tigers.
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. Such polling centres in all the other LTTE held areas of the northeastern province have been relocated in army controlled town and villages.
Mullaithivu is the sole exception.
The Vanni electoral district comprises the administrative districts of Mannar, Mullaithivu and Vavuniya. There are 213,111 persons registered as voters in the Vanni electoral district. More than half of these are either displaced or live in the region held by the Tigers.
Officials said that of the 73 polling booths for Vavuniya, 22 have been transferred to Sri Lanka army held part of the district and clustered in five centres. Of the 54 polling booths of Mannar, according to them, 35 five have been relocated from the original venues to nine centres in that part of the district controlled by the army now.
Apart from these relocated and clustered polling booths, eight have been set up additionally for generally displaced persons in Vavuniya and Mannar (four for each district).
However, the closing of all the entry points from the LTTE held part of the Vanni by the army on Monday and Tuesday will preclude all the voters in that region from casting their ballots even in the relocated booths, officials said.
A polls observer in Vavuniya, meanwhile, pointed out that this would encourage rigging as some of the polling centres where the booths are clustered lie in remote and sensitive security zones such as Madhu Road and Uyilankulam.