Archive for April 2010
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20 April 2010, Sri Lanka, 5pm: Re-polling in 34 polling centers in Nawalapitiya Polling Division, Kandy District and in Kumburupitiya Polling Station (Number 78), Trincomalee Polling Division, Trincomalee District was carried out between 7 am and 4pm today. CMEV monitored the re-polling with 4 mobile teams and 34 stationary monitors in Nawalapitiya and 1 mobile team and 1 stationary monitor in Kumburupitiya.
In both districts CMEV reported nine (09) incidents during the polling period including incidents of attempted impersonation, illegal casting of ballots, verbal abuse of SPOs, transporting of voters and impersonation of monitors.
CMEV notes that there were few incidents of election related violence during this re-poll. This is a significant change from April 8th when a high number of incidents were reported which resulted in the Commissioner of Elections calling for a re-poll. The violence free environment can be attributed to a high presence of police and military around polling stations. CMEV estimates a provisional voter turnout of 65% in Nawalapitiya and 46% in Kumburupitiya, Trincomalee. This demonstrates a lack of interest among voters in the present election.
CMEV reiterates the importance of free and fair elections which reinforce public confidence and ensures the integrity of the poll. CMEV has continuously called for and reiterates its call again for the immediate implementation of the 17th Amendment and the establishment of the Election Commission.
At the close of polls the following incidents were reported to CMEV:
Verbal Abuse of a SPO: CMEV Election Observer reported that Luxman Kirielle, UNP Candidate (No.08) and Ravi Karunanayake (UNP MP elected from Colombo district) had come to the Polling Station No. 05, (Senadhikari National School) at Udahenthanne around 11.40am. When the SPO informed them that Ravi Karunanayake was not entitled to enter the Polling Station, Luxmam Kirielle had verbally abused the SPO and left the polling station.
Illegal Casting of Ballot in Nawalapitiya: CMEV Election Observer reported that a person with a bogus ballot paper attempted to vote around 1.15pm at Warakawa junior school Polling Station No. 36, in Nawalapitiya Electorate in the Kandy District. This is the second such incident reported from this Polling Station today. The earlier incident took place at around 10.10am.
Attempted Impersonation: CMEV Election Observer reported an attempt at voter impersonation at M.S. Aluthgamage Maha Vidyalaya Polling Station No. 17, in Nawalapitiya Electorate where a voter had come to cast his vote with his National ID card and his father’s Polling Card. When the Electoral Register was examined it was revealed that the name of the person with the NIC was not in the Register. He was handed over to the police by the SPO for attempting voter impersonation.
Re-Poll in Nawalapitya & Trincomalee
20 April 2010, Sri Lanka, 1pm: Re-polling in 34 polling centers in Nawalapitiya Polling Division, Kandy District and in Kumburupitiya Polling Station (Number 78), Trincomalee Polling Division, Trincomalee District commenced at 7 am today. The Election Commissioner decided to re-poll following allegations of serious election malpractices including obstruction of voters and chasing away of polling officers on General Election Day on April 8th 2010. CMEV is monitoring the re-polling with 4 mobile teams and 34 stationary monitors in Nawalapitiya and 1 mobile team and 1 stationary monitor in Kumburupitiya.
As of 13:00 hours CMEV reports four incidents of election violations:
Transport of Voters in Trincomalee: CMEV mobile monitors reported that at around 9.20am, supporters of UPFA candidate Susantha Punchinilame (No 07) were transporting voters from the Salappai area and Gandhinagar in two vehicles bearing registration numbers 31Sri 1756 (a jeep) and WP 5029 (a bus), located near the Kumburupitiya Polling Station (No 78) around 9.10am in the Trincomlaee Electorate.
Transport of Voters in Nawalapitiya: As reported by CMEV around 11.00am, a white van bearing the Registration No. 42-0239 had engaged in transporting voters to Galaha junior school Polling Station No. 30 in Nawalapitiya Electorate. This has happened several times but the police have only warned the perpetrators.
Illegal Casting of Ballot in Nawalapitiya: CMEV monitors reported at around 8.35am, the SPO in the Polling Station No 39 Kadiyallena Junior School in the Nawalapitiya Electorate, was helping disabled voters to cast their vote. However, he marked the ballot paper himself and puts it into the ballot box without showing it to the voter. Nor was this voting being witnessed by another official as required by law. A similar practice was reported to have taken place in polling station No. 07, Alugolla junior school (No. 2) in Dolosbage, in Nawalapitiya Electorate. This was observed at around 11.45am by CMEV monitor.
Impersonating Monitor: As reported by CMEV around 12.05pm, a person in the vicinity of the Dolosbage Junior School Polling Station (No.01) in Dolosbage in the Nawalapitiya Electorate, was wearing the hand band of CMEV and thereby posing as a CMEV Election Observer. The police removed the person from the vicinity of the polling station and returned the hand band to the CMEV Election Observer.
9 April 2010, Colombo, Sri Lanka: On Election Day CMEV recorded 84 Major Incidents, including 53 incidents of Intimidation within the vicinity of polling centers. This figure includes 07 incidents of involving election officials, 07 incidents of Threat and Intimidation and 06 Assaults. CMEV has recorded 189 incidents of election law violations as well. When compared to the last Presidential election, there were a higher number of incidents of election related violence on the day of the poll.
We wish to record our deep concern about incidents in which polling agents were evicted from polling stations, sometimes forcefully. Furthermore, there were cases of voter obstruction and alleged attempts to rig the results reported from Nawalapitiya and Trincomalee. We have received numerous reports regarding voter impersonation in Puttalam, Kathankudy, Akkraipattu and Pottuvil.
According to CMEV field reports, the failure of polling agents to report objections relating to malpractice and irregularities, the absence of opposition polling agents and the deliberate failure of many SPOs to implement the law with regards to verifying the identity of voters, greatly facilitated voter impersonation.
CMEV also wishes to express its concern about the confusion and disarray relating to the application of indelible ink on the ring finger of voters. There has been a clear disregard of the Election Commissioner’s directive relating to this practice. During the first few hours of polling, ink was applied to both the ring and the little fingers of many voters. CMEV received such reports from all over the country, particularly Vavuniya, Deraniyagala, Colombo, Wattala, Puttalam, Kalawewa and Minneriya. When CMEV questioned this malpractice, many SPOs stated that they were unaware of the Commissioner’s directive on this matter.
CMEV notes that the Election Commissioner has suspended the counting of ballots from 34 polling stations in Nawalapitiya, and one polling station in the Trincomalee District. CMEV requested the Election Commissioner to annul polling in the Nawalapitiya electorate due to complaints received from the field about violence and irregularities. However, as of yet the Election Commissioner has not issued a gazette notification on his decision to annul the ballots in these polling stations and hold a second poll in them.
CMEV has received a number of complaints regarding the transparency of procedures followed by election officials at polling centers. According to the complaints received, officers who issued ballot papers to voters had marked the voters’ registration number on the counter foil of the ballot paper. Complainants’ claimed that this practice directly affected the secrecy of their vote. When CMEV contacted the Election Commissioner’s department regarding this issue, CMEV was informed that this is a normal procedure followed in polling centers and that at the closure of the polling centre all counter foils should be sealed, to be reopened only upon the receipt of a direct court order. The department further added that this procedure serves to safeguard the secrecy of voter identity.
CMEV learnt that people were suspicious and even fearful of this procedure, believing that their ballot papers could be traced. We urge the Election Commissioner to keep people well informed about election procedures, allay their doubts and fears, thereby ensuring increased and unfettered participation of voters in any election.
On the basis of the reports received from its monitors throughout the campaign and on Polling Day, CMEV concludes that as in the Presidential Election, the integrity of the electoral process has been undermined by violence and malpractice and strongly urges all actors to treat this seriously and take effective action to protect and strengthen the integrity of the process. We also conclude that despite this, the overall result does reflect the will of the electorate. CMEV also wishes to underscore the point that election monitors are not allowed to observe the counting of votes.
CMEV is concerned about post-election violence. CMEV highlights the importance of the immediate post-election period, and calls upon party leaders to demonstrate their commitment and respect for the rule of law by deterring post-election lawlessness among their party supporters, and political vengeance against opponents.
CMEV continues to receive reports relating to incidents of post-election violence. A CMEV stationary monitor was assaulted by an unknown group and his observation forms snatched in Nawalapitiya, yesterday (April 8th), at around 1930 hours.
Today (April 9th) CMEV received reports detailing a clash between supporters of UPFA candidate C.B.Ratnayake (candidate no. 02) and Saliya Bandara Dissanayke, Chairman of the Central Provincial Council, in Ragala, Brookside, at around 1715 hours.
CMEV learnt that Saliya campaigned in support of UPFA candidate Naveen Dissanayake (candidate no. 04), and that H.M.Dharmapala, a supporter of Ratnayake, received a gunshot wound to the hip. This injury was allegedly inflicted by Saliya. Dharmapala has since been admitted to the District Hospital. Ralgala Police Station confirmed this incident.
Today CMEV also received reports regarding another shooting in Millawana, Matale at around 1700 hours, allegedly committed by Naradha Millawana, a UPFA member of Pallepola Pradeshiya Sabha. L.D.Nandasiri, a former member of Galewala Pradeshiya Sabha, was grievously wounded in his right eye and was admitted to the Matale General Hospital. He has subsequently been transported to the Kandy General Hospital.
CMEV also received reports regarding a clash between supporters of UPFA candidates Pavithra Wanniarachchi (candidate no. 02) and John Senaviratne (candidate no. 09) near the residence of Pavithra, located in Rilhena, Pelmadulla at around 1800 hours today. When contacted, Kahawatha Police informed CMEV that a tense situation had arisen when the two groups confronted each other, but that both groups had dispersed before the situation worsened. CMEV learnt that the alleged perpetrator was a supporter of UPFA candidate Lakshman Wasantha Perera (candidate no. 01).
CMEV is concerned about the increased intra party violence during the campaign and in the post-election period, and reiterates its call to political parties, in particular the ruling party alliance, to refrain from violence.
08th April Colombo Sri Lanka, 7pm: At the close of polls at 4pm, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) recorded 84 Major and 202 Minor incidents of election related violence. The majority of incidents recorded during polling hours related to campaigning and other election offences (189). Of the Major incidents there were 6 Assaults and 7 cases of Threat and Intimidation of which 4 involved the use of firearms. The majority of Major incidents related to the intimidatory presence in and around polling stations.
CMEV estimates voter turn out to be between 50-55%. This could be the lowest turn out figures in recent history, as most Presidential and General Elections have seen averages of 65-75%. The lowest turn out for a General or Presidential Election in the last twenty years was the Presidential Election of 1988, which was 55.31%, while the General Election of 1989 registered a 63.6% turn out.
CMEV had warned that the loss of public trust and confidence in the electoral process following the Presidential Election could be reflected in a low voter turnout in the General Election. CMEV reiterates its concern that this low turnout could signal a shift in the political culture of the Sri Lankan electorate, which has enjoyed the franchise for almost seven decades and registered high voter turn out in most elections. The measure of our concern is the contrast in the conditions that obtained in the country in 1988 and the conditions, which obtain today, and the turn out in the two elections. In 1988 there was a JVP insurgency in the south of the country and the LTTE insurgency in the north and east. That Sri Lanka’s first post –war General Election should elicit such a low level of interest and participation from the electorate is a cause for concern at this crucial juncture in our history.
CMEV urges all political actors to engage in serious reflection on this and take urgent action to restore public trust and confidence in the electoral process that this may well be attributable to. Were the argument to be made that the low turn out is attributable to voters concluding that the result was a foregone conclusion, CMEV draws attention to this election as the one, which recorded the highest number of candidates in any General Election in the country. Clearly they were unable to inspire or enthuse voters.
In this context, CMEV wishes to register its concern about the Ada Derana text message to the effect that the Commissioner will only announce the turn out figure along with the final results. This fuels unnecessary speculation and could further erode public trust and confidence in the electoral process.
CMEV is particularly concerned by the incidents in Nawalapitiya prior to the commencement of polling and in the early hours of polling where polling agents were threatened and intimidated. CMEV has urged the Commissioner to annul the poll in the centres affected.
CMEV is also concerned with reports of possible malpractices with post election arrangements including counting. CMEV has been informed of a ballot box allegedly being switched in Nikawaratiya by supporters of UPFA candidate Johnston Fernando in the presence of the Special Task Force and police. CMEV urges the Commissioner of Election to take all steps to ensure the safety of the ballot boxes and to investigate all allegations of malpractice. CMEV urges all political parties, candidates and their supporters to respect the electoral process including the counting that is to commence shortly. Election monitors including CMEV have been permitted to be present at the announcement of results at the District Secretariat but not at the count.
M.H.M Ajmeer, coordinator at the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the nature of the Parliamentary election after polls closed.
Mr. D.M. Dissanayake, the national coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the nature of the Parliamentary election after polls closed.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, co-convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the nature of the Parliamentary election after polls closed.
M.H.M Ajmeer, coordinator at the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the ground situation on polling day. The video is in Tamil.
Mr. D.M. Dissanayake, the national coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the ground situation on polling day.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, co-convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), speaks on the ground situation on polling day.