Polling agents, coffins sent to EPDP stranglehold
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 December 2001, 14:26 GMT]
An opposition party candidate in the north said Tuesday that he would defy the stranglehold of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), a key coalition partner of Sri Lanka’s ruling People’s Alliance regime, on the island of Neduntheevu (Delft) off the Jaffna peninsula by sending six polling agents along with six coffins and a doctor to thwart en bloc rigging there. Neduntheevu is held by the EPDP under the aegis of the Sri Lanka security forces. The EPDP attacked the TNA in the island of Kayts November with assault rifles and swords on 28 killing two and wounding four candidates.
The EPDP brooks no opposition in Delft despite allegations that it casts all the votes in the island for itself because no one dares to supervise the polls there. No other party contesting elections in Jaffna has been able to send polling agents to the island at the general elections of 1994 and 2000 fearing death.
There are three polling booths on the island of Delft. A party can nominate two polling agents to each booth.
Mr. T. Maheswaran, the chief candidate of the United National Party in Jaffna, said that he has sent 40 party supporters to protect the polling agents and 10 persons trained in first aid along with a doctor to face any violent opposition by the EPDP.
Tamil politicians charge that the EPDP intimidated elections officials who were sent to the island of Neduntheevu for the polls in October last year and stuffed the ballot boxes at their pleasure.
The thousands of votes cast in this manner by the EPDP in the islands of Kayts, Nainathivu, Neduntheevu, Analaitheevu and Elavaitheevu gave it an edge over its opponents at the general elections in October 2000. The EPDP got nine seats in Parliament in the 1994 general elections with the captive votes in the islands.
(Ten members were returned to Parliament from the electoral district of Jaffna in 1989 and 94 under the proportional representation system of elections. This was reduced to nine in proportion to population in 2000)
Opposition parties charge that the EPDP would have few votes to show if the polls in the islands are free and fair.
Meanwhile, a TNA spokesman in Jaffna said that the Alliance will send polling agents to the island of Kayts tomorrow. He said that the TNA is not in a position to send polling agents to Neduntheevu.