Polls overshadowed by developments elsewhere
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 January 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Civilian activity on the roads of Jaffna came to a virtual standstill today, the eve of local government elections, as residents stayed at home through fear, said sources in the peninsula. What was seen on the roads were buses, specially brought from Colombo for the polls, transporting officers on election duty, ballot boxes and ballot papers, under heavy armed guard by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA).
However, there was doubt whether a free and fair poll will be conducted, as there are already allegations that the Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party (EPDP) contesting the election, has made off with a large number of the ballot papers from Jaffna Municipal Council area.
Tight security is being provided by the SLA with rigorous checking going on at all checkpoints and extra vigilance being mounted around the polling stations.
There are chances that polling in the islands off the Jaffna peninsula will see a larger than average voter turn out. Persons met by the TamiNet correspondent at Karainagar said that they would vote purely to ensure the defeat of the EPDP.
At Karanagar too, the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) has urged the people to go to vote at all costs, even if it is to only spoil the ballot.
The best summing up of the fear ridden atmosphere came from a Jaffna University don who told the TamilNet correspondent, "We only open our mouths to eat."
The focus of attention in the country shifted to the Colombo, as the political fallout of the bomb in Kandy became ominous.
The Deputy Minister of Defence, Anuruddha Ratwatte, a senior member of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's cabinet, offered his resignation today due to pressure brought on him for the lapse in security at Kandy.
Ratwatte's move came in the wake of strident calls for his resignation by the opposition party, the United National Party (UNP) at a rally yesterday in Colombo. Many other groups have also criticised the Sri Lanka Government's (SLG) inability to prevent the explosion at the Dalada Maligawa which is the holy of holies to Buddhists.
Meanwhile, the venue of the main Independence Day celebrations on February 4 was shifted to Colombo due to security reasons. This is a mortifying blow to the SLG, which was once confident of providing security at the venue. The SLG even gave its assurance to Prince Charles, who is to be the chief guest at the celebrations. Highly placed sources told TamilNet that there are doubts now of the Prince gracing the occasion.
As the country tried to cope with this embarrassing political and diplomatic situation, the LTTE overran a SLA camp in Batticaloa. It made off with a large quantity of arms and ammunition.
Hence, according to observers in the peninsula, it seems that the apprehension of the Jaffna voter and momentuous events that are unfolding with great rapidity in Colombo, have made the polls look pedestrian unless the Tigers decide to strike in Jaffna tomorrow.
28.01.98 Tigers hit Valaichenai SLA camps
28.01.98 Gen. Ratwatte submits resignation