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Sunday, 2 September 2012





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Relatively low number of violations and incidents:

PC election campaign enters final phase

As the campaigning for the Provincial Council elections is scheduled to end on September 5, in the run-up to the Provincial Council election to three key Councils on September 8, political parties seem to have put more steam in to their campaigns as the election stage is hotting up at the tail end of the campaign.

According to the Elections Commissioner’s Department 3,336,415 voters in all three provinces are eligible to vote on September 8 to elect 108 Provincial Councillors to the three Provincial Councils, the Eastern Provincial Council, the North Central Provincial Council and the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council which represent 23.3 percent of the total population of the country.

According to the latest population figures released by the Census and Statistics Department, based on the 2011 census, the Eastern Province has a population of 1,547,377 representing 7.6 percent of the total population while the North Central Province has a 1,259,421 population representing 6.2 percent of the total population; the Sabaragamuwa Province with a 1,919,478 population represents 9.5 percent of the total population.

Of the entire population in the three provinces, 1,033,749 in the Eastern Province, 900,872 in the North Central Province and 1,401,794 in the Sabaragamuwa Province are eligible to cast their votes on the election day.

Electing representatives to the three Provincial Councils has become a difficult task for the voters as they have to choose from 3,073 candidates representing political parties and independent groups competing for the 108 seats in the three Provincial Councils.

Twenty four registered political parties have submitted their nominations to different districts in these provinces and among them United People’s Freedom Alliance, United National Party, Janatha Vimukthi Permauna, Eksath Lanka Maha Saba and Sri Lanka Labour Party have fielded their candidates in all seven districts in the three provinces. Jana Setha Peramuna is also contesting all the districts except the Ratnapura district where their nomination paper was rejected.

Largest number of parties

The largest number of political parties are contesting the Eastern Provincial Council with 16 political parties for the Trincomalee and Ampara districts and 13 political parties for the Batticaloa district.

The highest number of independent groups is also reported from the Eastern Province as 21 independent groups for the Batticaloa district, 16 independent groups for the Trincomalee district and 18 independent groups for the Ampara district. Therefore, 1,470 candidates from all three districts are contesting the 35 seats in the Eastern Provincial Council.

For the 31 seats in the North Central Province (21 seats in the Anuradhapura district and 10 seats in the Polonnaruwa district) 544 candidates from both recognised political parties and independent groups are contesting. In the Anuradhapura district 216 candidates from nine political parties and 208 candidates from five independent groups are contesting. In the Polonnaruwa district 117 candidates from nine political parties and 91 candidates from independent groups are vying for the 10 seats.

In the Ratnapura district 351 candidates representing 13 political parties and 162 candidates representing six independent groups are contesting for 24 seats. In the Kegalle district 273 candidates, each from 13 political parties and 13 independent groups, are contesting the 18 seats.

Though elections are held in three Provincial Councils, the election in the East has become the central focus on the basis of the stiff competition among political parties.

The most sad and unfortunate aspect with regard to the Eastern PC polls is that it is becoming more an ethnic related campaign rather than becoming an election based on the policies of the political parties.

The entry of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which vehemently opposed the de-merger of the East from the previous North and East Province, and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Minister Rauff Hakeem deciding to contest the Eastern polls separately from the UPFA campaign has made it a more ethnic sensitive one.

Narrow and cheap politics are being bandied about in mostly the Eastern Province to woo different ethnic groups to get them under one ethnic group, making the predictions of election results in the East more difficult. Many observers are of the opinion that the final result of the Eastern polls will make the situation more difficult for the political parties as any single party is not in a position to take an absolute majority in the Eastern Provincial Council.

Bargaining power

Therefore, the TNA which is apparently harbouring the Tamil Eelam concept among the Tamil community or the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress which is trying to play with the bargaining power of the Muslims in the East somehow will have to take sides in the Eastern Provincial Council at the end, whatever politics they play at the election campaign.

What they have to realise is that whether it is a Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim who becomes the Chief Minister, he will have to serve all ethnic groups in the Eastern Province equally, irrespective of their ethnic affiliation.

Since that should be the final outcome, what all political parties must do at this juncture is to make the Eastern PC polls a platform to showcase the ethnic harmony of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, but not the divisions as advocated by various parties.

For the Government too, the election will become a testing ground to observe whether the development drive it has initiated for the well-being of the population in the East has reached the common masses.

It will be a kind of referendum for the Government to go ahead with its development drive in the East to provide the dividends of peace to the grass roots level people.

After the Eastern Province, the North Central Provincial Council especially Anuradhapura district has become a hotbed in the election campaign due to the number of election law violations reported from the district. According to the Election Complaints Investigation Centre of the Elections Department, the highest number of 81 election violations have been reported from Anuradhapura.

By Friday evening the Centre had received 261 complaints with regard to election law violations. The second highest number of complaints has been reported from the Ampara district. The others were reported as 11 from the Polonnaruwa district, 31 from the Trincomalee district, 37 from the Batticaloa district, 41 from the Kegalle district and 34 from the Ratnapura district.

Apart from that, 43 violent incidents have also been reported by Friday evening. They were reported - three from the Anuradhapura district, four from the Trincomalee district, 14 from the Batticaloa district, 18 from the Ampara district and four from the Ratnapura district, a spokesman for the centre told the Sunday Observer.

Though a few incidents of damages to vehicles and properties were reported, there had been no incidents related to physical violence during the campaign.

All initiatives taken

The spokesman said the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has taken all initiatives to inquire into each and every election law violation incident by sending teams to the relevant areas.

“Basically election law violations are reported with regard to the removal of posters and cut-outs and the misuse of power and State properties for the elections campaign and the Elections Department has taken every endeavour to contain these incidents by taking prompt action”, the spokesman added.

Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said that the Police Department has received 58 election related complaints from the last date of nomination upto last Friday.

“We have arrested 47 suspects and some of them have been given Police bail, released or remanded”, he added.

He also said that the highest number of incidents was reported from the Eastern Province. The complaints received were 15 from Ampara, three from Kegalle, four from Anuradhapura, seven from Kantale two from Polonnaruwa, two from Ratnapura, one from Seethawaka and three from Trincomalee district.

The SSP said that the Police Department is ready to commit 21,000 Police personnel for election day duties.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Centre for Free and Fair Elections, Keerthi Tennekoon said that the ongoing election campaign for the three Provincial Councils are relatively peaceful and they have observed that the election law violations are very low compared to the past Provincial Council and general elections.

“This is a very good sign we have seen at this election and we welcome the move by political parties; this is also due to the action taken by the Elections Department and the Police”, he added.

He said that they have received many reports about graduates who have been given appointments three months ago for the election campaigns.

These incidents were reported from Ampara, Kegalle and Anuradhapura districts.

According to CAFFE, most election law violations were reported from the Eastern Province and from the Anuradhapura district in the North Central Province.

Tennekoon also praised the Elections Commissioner and his staff for taking prompt action with regard to the election law violations and also the Police for enforcing the elections laws in an effective way.

“In the regions the Police were under immense pressure initially not only from the ruling party but also from the Opposition. But later they effectively enforced the elections laws with regard to the removal of cut-outs and banners”, he added.

However, he blamed the Opposition both the UNP and the JVP, for taking a lethargic attitude towards the elections law violations and not putting pressure on the law enforcement authorities and the Elections officials about those violations.

“In a vibrant democracy, the opposition has a key role to play to exert pressure on law enforcement authorities by complaining about election law violations as there are ample ways of complaining about them. But we do not see that trend from the Opposition at this election campaign. It was the civil society and the civil society organisations who played this role at the election”, he added.

Only a few cases

Executive Director of the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Rohana Hettiarachchi also said that the violence is low at this election compared to the past elections.

He said 158 cases have so far been reported about election law violations. The highest number, 57 was reported from the Anuradhapura district and 12 cases of threatening and intimidation were reported of which 11 were from the Eastern Province, he said. According to PAFFREL 77 cases of misuse of State resources and power have also been reported.

“They have been reported in the form of distribution of dry rations, water pumps, use of government vehicles, government officials and personnel for election campaigns”, he added.

He also praised the Police for doing their best with regard to the removal of posters, banners and cut-outs. “It has to be noted that the Elections Commissioner also took prompt action once they get complaints with regard to election law violations.

We are quite satisfied with the way the Elections Commissioner’s Department is taking action at this election”, Hettiarachchi added.

However, he observed that the enthusiasm of the people with regard to elections is fast deteriorating as they are fed up with so many elections and also of the system.

He said that the PAFFREL is ready to deploy 1,500 observers on the elections day and 100 mobile units on vehicles to observe the elections in the three provinces.



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