Reporters barred from Jaffna, Vavuniyaa during elections

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 August 2009, 01:23 GMT]
Sri Lanka will not allow reporters into Vavuniyaa and Jaffna to cover the local government elections to be held there on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. “The government did not give a reason for banning reporters, but it cites security reasons for denying entry to any outsider,” AP reported. The towns are accessible with Defence ministry permission and “even residents can't leave without permission,” AP report said. Meanwhile, an elections watchdog, PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections) said there seemed to be little public interest in the polls as people were preoccupied with the plight of their relatives in government’s military-run internment camps.

The government has touted Saturday's polls in the two northern cities as the first sign of democracy taking root in an area ravaged by the decades long civil war that ended in May. The two cities are just outside the de facto state the LTTE ran in the north.

Both cities, where Tamils are the majority, remain surrounded by checkpoints and are accessible only with permission from the Defence Ministry, the AP reported.

Reporters will not be allowed into the cities to report on the elections - the first in the cities since 1998 - and will have to rely on government handouts, said Lakshman Hulugalle, the head of the government's security information centre.

However, despite the ban, ruling party officials have taken some journalists to the area to cover their campaign events.

Meanwhile, elections watchdog PAFFREL’s Executive Deputy Director, Rohan Hettiarachchi, told a media conference in Colombo Monday: "Our observation is that the people of both these areas do not have much interest on these elections."

Hettiarachchi said that people of Vavuniyaa local government area are more concerned about their relatives in welfare camps for the internally displaced people.

He said that people of Vavuniyaa local government area are more concerned about their relatives in welfare camps for the internally displaced people, The Island newspaper reported.

Of the 100,417 voters within Jaffna Municipality, about 40 per cent are living outside the area. Of those who are living outside the Municipal Council area, only 7,100 have made applications to cast their votes.


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