Election violence will affect polling

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 January 1999, 19:34 GMT]
Violence in Sri Lanka's North - western province hit a new high today, on the eve of polls that are crucial for the Government.

Armed gangs loyal to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the largest party in the Government coalition, went about attacking its opponents scaring voters, said sources in the area.

Mr.Kingsley Rodrigo, the co-ordinator of Sri Lanka's regarded polls watch dog, People's Alliance For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), said this evening that many armed PA supporters were going about the province, forcibly taking polling cards from the people and attacking the houses of UNPers.

He said that persons armed with assault rifles, of the type issued to the army, had opened fire on the UNP's campaign office at Kuliyapitiya today.

Meanwhile Police sources in Kurunagala said that the UNP MP for the Anuradhapura district and M.D.A Hemachandra, the UNP Mayor of the hill country town of Badulla, were also attacked by PA thugs and supporters.

The latter was admitted to the Kurunagala hospital. However, the Rupavahini, the state run TV station, claimed in its evening newscast that the Badulla Mayor has been arrested by the Police with weapons.

Meanwhile, another UNP supporter, retired Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Nizaam, was severely assaulted at Sinhapura in the Kurunagala area today by armed PA men who had come in 20 vehicles. The ex.DIG has complained to the Police that two persons who were with him at the time are missing.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) released its interim report this morning at a press conference in its office in Flower Road, an affluent Colombo suburb.

The conference was addressed by Dr.Pakkiasothy Saravanamuthu and other leading members of the CMEV who said that the violence will certainly affect polling tomorrow.

The CMEV spokesmen said that the Police are taking little action on complaints due to political interference. There were very few arrests in connection with the violence they pointed out.

Some press persons argued that this is normal in a third world country and a few said that the CME was trying to talk up the violence.

This was shot down by the CME spokesman who presented a comparative analysis to make their case. The following are some highlights of the CME's interim report:

On events from December 7, the date on which nominations closed to the end of campaigning on January 22.

1. This elections is proportionally more violent (in terms of number of incidents) than the local government election of 1997. A total of 675 incidents were recorded in forty five days of the present campaign, whereas in the 44 days of campaign in 1997 a total of 335 incidents were reported from the same geographical area.

2. The incidents reported are qualitatively more serious than those reported at the local government elections in the same province. For instance, allegedly, two murders, nine attempted murders,14 incidents of grievous bodily harm,175 assaults,28 robberies and 18 reports of arson have taken place in the PC campaign as compared with one murder, no attempted murder, 10 incidents of hurt,84 assaults,14 robberies and 4 acts of arson in the run up to local government elections 97.

3. This campaign has recorded a significant increase in violations by persons whose party affiliations have not been identified. In comparison with 1997 election, the allegations against the PA and UNP have shown a slight decline and increase respectively. The JVP's share of alleged violations has declined both in numerical and percentage terms. 4.49 incidents or 7.26 percent of the total recorded involved the use of fire arms which is higher than the average for the LG polls. 22 individuals have been named in complaints made to the Police. Of these P.M Dassanayaka, PA MP for the Puttlalam district has been cited as the alleged perpetrator in thirteen incidents, one of which is a case of grievous bodily harm, two assaults, four allegations of threat and intimidation, one robbery, two acts mischief and three threats."

The report in its the general comments states among other things " The PA is allegedly responsible for slightly under half the total incidents, the UNP for slightly more than half the PA and those of unknown affiliation for just under a third of the total"


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