NDI-USA has just published Monitoring and Mitigating Electoral Violence through Nonpartisan Citizen Election Observation.
This is a guide book informed by lessons learnt around election monitoring shared by international election observers who attended a workshop held in Bangkok in 2013. The Executive Director of CPA, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, was also part of this workshop.
NDI-USA visited CMEV to gather details for this guide, and have highlighted CMEV’s experience in several places throughout the guide, including on page 19, 30 and 52, as well as in the main Sri Lanka case study on page 81.
This is the first guide specifically focused on outlining and systematizing strategies and methods for citizen election observers to monitor and mitigate electoral violence. The guide outlines an overall approach for designing electoral violence monitoring and mitigation strategies, and then takes a practical look at four key areas in which citizen observers can contribute to mitigating electoral violence: (1) long-term election observation; (2) traditional and social media monitoring, reporting on hate speech, and contributing to media accountability; (3) crowdsourcing and visualizing electoral violence-related data; and (4) grassroots electoral violence mitigation and mediation efforts.
The Uva Provincial Council election to be held on Saturday 20th September 2014, is the last in the current cycle of Provincial Council Elections. It was dissolved by Gazette Notification 1870/64 of 11th July 2014, and following this the Commissioner of Elections, with powers vested in him under the Act of Provincial Council elections, made an amendment to the numbers of members to be elected at the district level. Accordingly the number of members to be elected from the Badulla and Monaragala districts was set at 18 and 14 respectively. Postal voting has been scheduled for the 4th – 5th September. The deadline for submission of applications for postal votes was 18th August. Notably, out of the 42,037 applications for postal voting 11,380 or 27 % have been rejected by the Elections Secretariat, because forms were not properly completed or were received at the Secretariat after the deadline. However such applicants have the opportunity to vote on the day of the Election, through Polling stations. Accordingly 30,699 government servants are eligible to cast postal votes on 4th and 5th September.
Incidents of Violation of Election Law: as at 6 pm on 2014 August 26th
CMEV has been able to confirm 24 incidents of election related violence and malpractice out of a total of 62 complaints. Half of these or 12 of them are major incidents.
There is a significant increase in the violations of electoral laws over the 20 days since nominations when compared with the Provincial Councils Elections of the previous years (except the Northern PC Elections).
Whilst the Police, acting on the directions of the Commissioner of Elections, have duly removed cutouts and posters, and in general worked towards ensuring free and fair elections, in areas such as Badalkumbura and Bibile in the Monaragala District, the situation is tense and should be brought to the urgent attention of the relevant authorities.
Situation in Monaragala
CMEV notes two points of concern in the Monaragala District – undue pressure exerted by a small handful of candidates and their unwillingness to recognize the political right of others to campaign. There are serious criticisms of the campaigning in Monaragala including the introduction of a large numbers of supporters from other areas including Colombo, and the failure of the Police to control incidents that have resulted. On the 23rd and 24th August alone, firearms were used to threaten rivals and several political party offices were damaged. The majority of those affected are opposition supporters.
Tension is heightened by an armed group loitering in the area at nighttime, as alleged by some political parties. It is also alleged that this group was responsible for the incident where a number of political party offices belonging to the UNP, JVP and DP, were damaged. A similar incident occurred on 25th August. According to JVP candidate Mr. R.M. Jayewardene, while the stage was being set up for their meeting with prior approval at the premises of the Badalkumbura Pradeshiya Sabha (PS), UPFA supporters had disrupted their preparations including removing decorations and interrupting the power supply, with the authorization of Vice Chairman of the Badalkumbura PS Mr.Kapila Samarakkody. At about 10. 30pm with the support of people brought in from other areas, in various vehicles including two Defender jeeps, the UPFA supporters had begun to physically assault the JVPers. They had also fired shots into the air with a T 56 weapon. The melee had resulted in complete damage to the stage and sound equipment. The JVP had lodged a complaint (CIB 367-216) at the Badalkumbura Police Station. In the meantime the media reported that two Police officers injured in the violence had been admitted to the Badalkumbura Hospital.
On inquires by CMEV, District Medical Officer Subuddhika Keselkotuwa stated that only one Police officer with minor injuries had been in the ward, and he had subsequently been discharged.
CMEV made inquiries from the alleged perpetrator Vice Chairman Mr. Samarakkody, who rejected all the allegations and said that two UPFA supporters had also been injured and admitted to the Monaragala Hospital. He further said he had been in a discussion with Speaker Mr. Chamal Rajapaksa, and that the latter had also lodged a complaint with the Badalkumbura Police.
When CMEV contacted the Special Police operation Unit for Elections, an officer confirmed that an incident had occurred and that both parties had complained.
CMEV also contacted the Personal Secretary of the Former Chief Minister, Shasheendra Rajapaksa, Mr. Ranjan Bandara, regarding these allegations. He confirmed there was an incident and said that according to what he had heard the JVP had first assaulted the UPFA supporters and the latter had retaliated.
Such incidents do not augur well for the campaign and for polling day. Police must take necessary action promptly. CMEV appreciates the Commissioner of Elections writing to the IGP to take the necessary measures.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on the Joint Open Letter by the Main Election Monitoring Groups sent to leaders and Secretaries of all political parties contesting the Uva Provincial Council Election 2014 and the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
Click here for statement.
See recording of Skype call below
Listen to podcast below.
To: Leaders and Secretaries of all political parties
Contesting the Uva Provincial Council Election 2014
And the Inspector General of Police (IGP)
12th August 2014
Request to take appropriate action to prevent violations of election law and ensure the safety of election officials
As you are aware, there have been several reports of threats to election officials in provincial council elections held in the recent past. Evidence of many such incidents surfaced during the provincial council elections in the Southern, North Western and Western provinces – incidents in Homagama, Kesbewa (Western PC) Weligama, Matara (Southern) and Mahawa (North Western) being examples. In comparison with other elections conducted in the last decade, the number of such incidents is high.
The latest such incident of this nature, has been reported from the Badulla district on nomination day (06th August 2014). A former Uva PC minister (Anura Vidanagamage) and his brother, a ruling party Member of Parliament from the Badulla District (Thenuka Vidanagamage) had organized a large vehicle parade with the intention of traveling to Badulla from Mahiyanganaya. When this large group of supporters with over 150 vehicles entered the Loggal Oya area, a few police officers attempted to stop them under instructions from Mr. Chaminda Namal Thalangama, Deputy Commissioner of Elections, Kurunegala, who has been deployed to the Uva Province for special duty by the Election Commissioner. UPFA supporters threatened the Assistant Election Commissioner and the police officers, who attempted to stop them. Further they deleted all photographic images and video footage on camera, taken by the Deputy Commissioner of Elections. Due to this unprecedented incident, the election officers who had been verbally abused and threatened feared for their safety and returned to Badulla using alternative routes. A section of UPFA supporters arrived at Bandarawela through Haliela and Badulla while another section gathered in the Meegahakiula area, seriously violating election laws. There have also been reports of other incidents of violations of election laws by UPFA and UNP supporters holding vehicle parades.Our main concern however, pertains to the incident reported from the Loggal Oya area.
The Department of Elections had issued a circular (PCE/2014/UVA/4B) on July 31strequiring that political parties, government officers and law enforcement authorities ensure that processions and vehicle parades do not take place during the election period, especially during August 5th and 6th 2014.The Department had also urged politicians not to disturb students sitting the GCE (A/L) examination between August 5 and 29, 2014. Further the Department of Election has been issued a “code of ethics in terms of section 8(8) of the Parliamentary Elections Act No.1 of 1981 as amended by Act No.58 of 2009. Accordingly, it is expected that political parties and leaders of Independent Groups will make their candidates aware of the code of conduct and make suitable arrangement to ensure that they observe the said code.
As already reported, all Assistant Commissioners of Elections are frustrated and deeply concerned about violations of election laws and in particular of this nature. It is of pivotal importance to ensure their safety and provide them the necessary support to carry out their duties without fear or favour. In this respect, we note a number of special concerns, which should be given immediate attention. Firstly most of the vehicles used in that particular vehicle parade were “Defender” vehicles of the type typically used by politicians and elements attached to the security forces. Secondly a number of the supporters involved are from cadre given to the politicians as their security officers from the Ministerial Security Division (MSD). Unless immediate measures are taken to prevent this type of incident in the future and political actors commit themselves to upholding elections laws in word and deed, the integrity of the poll on 20th September will be gravely compromised.
As such, we call on you to take all measures to ensure the safety and security of election officials and to issue strict instructions to candidates to desist from any actions, which affect the holding of free and fair elections.We also urge the IGP that in addition to providing for the security of election officials, he act decisively in respect of the misuse and abuse of public property and state resources as well as of MSD personnel and vehicles. The appointment of unbiased and professional police officers is of particular importance in areas such as Mahiyanganaya. Furthermore, MSD personnel should be directed to wear their police uniforms at all times when on duty during elections.
A genuine and demonstrable effort by political leaders, especially from the ruling alliance is vital to uphold the integrity of the electoral process.
We will be releasing this letter to the media in the public interest.
Please be assured of our cooperation.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – CMEV
Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchi – PAFFREL
Mr. Keerthi Tennekoon – CaFFE
31 July 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has commenced proceedings for monitoring the upcoming Uva Provincial Council Elections 2014.
Cooperation and assistance rendered by election officials, police, political parties, candidates, media and the public in the past has been invaluable to the exercise and we look forward to similar support in this election as well.
The CMEV secretariat is located in Colombo and incidents related to electoral violence and violations of electoral laws can be reported to the secretariat through the contact details given below.
- All CMEV reports and communiqués, and the violence mapping on Google Maps can be accessed online at http://cmev.wordpress.com
- All updates will be posted on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/cmev(or via @cmev)
- All updates will also be posted on our Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/electionviolence
CMEV is planning to deploy a number of stationery observers in selected polling stations during the election day as well as 10 Mobile Teams on Election Day in the areas identified as critical.
Our contact details are:
Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)
No 24/2, 28th Lane
Off Flower Road,
TP: 0112565304-6 & 0115552749
Please contact following persons for comments and information:
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Mr. Manjula Gajanayake
Mr. Mani Maran
CMEV was formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition against Political Violence as an independent and nonpartisan organization to monitor the incidence of election related violence. Currently, CMEV is made up of CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre.
Download as a PDF here.
CMEV wishes to acknowledge the work of the Commissioner of Elections, his officials in Colombo and throughout the Northern Province, as well as the Police in the holding of the Northern Provincial Council Election. Furthermore, the cooperation and assistance extended to CMEV greatly assisted us in our work.
CMEV also acknowledges the financial support of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) which made its monitoring of this historic election possible.
Finally, we salute the voters of the Northern Province for braving threat and intimidation in large numbers and overcoming a host of other challenges to exercise their franchise. This ensured that though the integrity of the electoral process was undermined, the final result reflected the overall wishes of the electorate.
Download the full report as a PDF here.
CMEV headquarters, 21 September, 6 pm : Tamil podcast on reported incidents at end of polling.