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