Flashback to Wayamba 1999
The North Western Province or Wayamba has
recorded the worst election marred by
violence and mayhem in post-independence Sri
The infamous Wayamba 1999 election is still
considered to be the biggest black mark in
Sri Lanka's violence riddled election
Among the many incidents of violence and
mayhem reported at the 1999 Wayamba
elections was when in Puttalam a UNP polling
agent who refused to budge from his desk was
mercilessly assaulted allegedly by PA
supporters and a politico from Colombo who
reportedly went there to stuff the ballot
In another incident, armed gangs kidnapped a
younger brother of a female JVP polling
agent on the day of the elections. More than
four JVPers were abducted. Almost all the
JVP polling agents were sent to Kurunegala
leaving the party's then chief ministerial
candidate Bimal Ratnayake in a helpless
According to reports following the election,
it was revealed that out of a total of 830
polling stations in the Kurunegala District,
141 had been attacked during polling hours.
In the Puttalam District, out of 300 polling
stations, 71 had been attacked, making the
Also from three other polling stations, nine
ballot boxes had been hijacked while being
transported to the counting centres, and
some were found burnt.
Following reports submitted by senior
presiding officers, the Elections
Commissioner had said he intended making an
order canceling the polling at three polling
stations of which the ballot boxes did not
reach the counting centre and that he
intended rejecting 47,000 votes that were
suspected of having been stuffed into ballot
However, the Elections Commissioner later
changed his stance and said he did not
intend annulling the polling of the centres
that had been raided by armed gangs.
UNP's K.N. Choksy at the time had pointed
out that 212 out of a total of 1130 polling
stations constitutes 18.5 per cent of the
total poll and argued that it was adequate
enough to cancel the entire election. He had
said the officers of the Elections
Commissioner's Department had detected
48,000 votes in stuffed ballot boxes, but
there could have been much more.
Choksy had reportedly demanded that the
entire election be declared null and void
and that results must not be announced. The
JVP had also supported this view.
The Elections Commissioner however went
ahead and announced the election results.
At the same time a UNP supporter from the
Kurunegala District had filed a fundamental
rights application requesting the Supreme
Court to grant an interim order directing
the Elections Commissioner not to gazette
the results and also to make a final order
after the hearing, declaring the elections
null and void and directing that fresh
elections be held.
The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices
Ranjith Deeraratne, S. W. B. Wadugodapitiya
and Asoka Gunawardene granted leave to
proceed but did not grant the interim order
directing the Elections Commissioner not to
gazette the election results.
Muslims prefer to stay put in Puttalam
A large number of Muslims evicted from
Mannar and Jaffna by the LTTE during the
height of the ethnic conflict have settled
down in the Puttalam District. They too will
be casting their votes at the provincial
These Muslims after having lived in
temporary shelters for a long time are now
in the process of rebuilding their lives in
land plots allocated to them in Puttalam.
Although the war is now nearing an end,
these people say that they do not wish to
return to their homes in the north, as they
had little or no faith on the permanency of
the military victories achieved.
"What's the point in going back? If it
happens again we will have to return and
then we won't even have this piece of land,"
Naleem who was evicted from Mannar 19 years
ago says that he arrived in Puttalam after
the army had brought him and his family to
Naleem works at the saltern for a daily wage
ranging between Rs. 250-300.
"We prefer to stay. We have now built a
house and our children are schooling here,"
he said. He expresses doubts on the ability
of the forces to hold on to the land that
has been captured by the government.
"Without a permanent solution, we do not
have confidence to leave," Naleem said.
Hameed, who has also lived in Puttalam since
1997 said he preferred to stay here.
"Even if we go, we will have to come back.
We are not sure of the situation there," he
According to him, almost every Muslim who
was evicted from the North, preferred to
stay back in Puttalam.
'Await record victory'
- UPFA's Athula Wijesinghe
UPFA chief ministerial candidate, Athula
Wijesinghe says he is confident of "a record
victory" at the North Western Provincial
The campaign of the ruling UPFA is aimed at
promoting 'development in the south along
with the humanitarian efforts in the north.'
"We want the people to know that the
government while liberating the country from
terrorists was also engaged in development
projects in the south," he said.
According to Wijesinghe, the massive support
shown by the people towards the UPFA
election campaign was a definitive
indication of the landslide victory it would
record come February 14.
Referring to the problems faced by people in
the province, Wijesinghe says that since
everyone's main focus was on liberating the
country from the terrorists, they had
expressed their desire to make certain
Referring to issues raised by farmers about
the delay in receiving subsidised fertiliser
and the problems faced by the small time
coconut growers, the chief ministerial
candidate denied there was a delay in
farmers receiving the subsidised fertiliser,
adding that the current price for coconuts
was good for the growers.
Responding to allegations of misuse of
public property in the election campaign of
the ruling party, Wijesinghe said that they
were baseless allegations leveled by the
opposition parties. "The opposition members
who have alleged misuse of public property
by the ruling party are also misusing public
property. The vehicles they use, especially
for election campaign work are also public
property," he said.
However, Wijesinghe expressed confidence in
winning the election given the successful
military operations in the north that are
aligned with development projects in other
parts of the country.
A lawyer by profession, Wijesinghe hails
from a political family. Wijesinghe's father
was a teacher and was involved in Leftist
Following his initial education at his
village school, Wijesinghe entered
Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala for O/Levels
and Nalanda College for A/Levels.
He then entered Law College although he was
selected to the Vidyalankara University in
the science stream.
Explaining his childhood in a political
family, he said that during his young days
he had witnessed his father being
politically victimised by the then UNP
It was the suffering endured by his father
that had pushed Wijesinghe to enter
In 1978, Wijesinghe became the secretary of
the Sri Lanka Nidahas Lawyer's Association.
In 1980, he took oaths as an attorney at law
and also entered active politics.
He contested the local government elections
in 1997 and became Bingiriya Pradeshiya
He entered the North Western Provincial
Council in 1999 and was appointed chief
minister in 2001, which post he held till
its dissolution in December 2008.
'We will address the real issues'
- UNP's Shamal Senarath
UNP chief ministerial candidate, Shamal
Senarath says that the party's aim is to
address the real issues faced by the people
in the province and to return 'exemplary
leaders' to the provincial council.
He said that the provincial council has so
far been unable to address issues related to
several key sectors. "During the last two
councils led by the PA, the heath and
education sectors have seen a drastic
Senarath said that most schools in the area
lacked teachers and resources while some
schools had excess teachers. As for the
health sector he said that the province has
recorded a high number of Thalassemia
patients as well as those suffering from
"Even certain institutions under the council
have been closed down," he said.
According to Senarath, there was no need to
base a provincial election campaign on the
military victories as they belonged to the
whole country and not any particular party.
"By marketing the military victories as the
main election campaign for the provincial
council shows the governing party's
bankruptcy. A provincial council election
should not be based on military victories.
Unfortunately, that is the only marketing
tool for the government," he said.
People in the province according to Senarath
are now aware of the truth.
The UNP has so far held meetings in all the
balamandalas in the Kurunegala District
under Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya.
Meanwhile, zones comprising 10 polling
booths have been formed and meetings have
already been conducted with each zone under
Senarath said the party is now in the
process of holding pocket meetings and a
Senarath received his primary education at
Narammala Mayurapada Junior College and then
at Nalanda College, Colombo from grade six
He entered the Law faculty of the Colombo
University in 1986. However, when the
universities in the country closed during
the 1988-1989 insurgency, Senarath entered
With former President R. Premadasa
introducing the concept of ensuring that 40%
of contestants be youth, Senarath contested
and entered the Alawwa Pradeshiya Sabha in
In 1993, he was elected to the second North
Western Provincial Council under the
guidance of U.B. Wijekoon.
During his 15-year stint in the council,
Senarath has performed the roles of leader
of the house, opposition whip and opposition
'People cannot be hoodwinked'
- JVP's Nimal Herath
JVP chief ministerial candidate, Nimal
Herath says that while the people commended
and support the military victories in the
north, they are now aware of the
government's plan to cover up its
inefficiencies by it.
Herath says that February 14 would be a
decisive date as the country was now at
political crossroads and it was vital to
make the correct turn that would get the
country on the proper track. "The government
has to show how sincere it is in its
He accused the government of misusing public
property to the maximum. He said that with
the elections drawing near and people moving
towards the opposition parties, the
governing party was misusing public
"Media has been suppressed and the state
media is being manipulated in a manner where
no other message but that of the government
is being taken to the public," he said.
According to Herath, although the Alliance
government was using military victories,
people are now aware of the real plight of
He said that the JVP was continuing with its
campaign to reach out to the people and
amidst various difficulties due to state
action, the party was in the process of
going from house-to-house. "We have also
organised a series of meetings at village
level with party seniors," he said.
Herath says that the election on the 14th
would not be a free and fair one, but hoped
it would be the day that gives the JVP the
strength to fight for people's rights.
Herath was educated at the Giriulla Maha
Vidyalaya and Mahasen National School,
Since 1980 he has been an active member of
the JVP and functions as the chairman of the
party's Nikaweratiya committee and is the
Nikaweratiya electoral organiser as well.
In 1997, he was elected as a member of the
Nikaweratiya Pradeshiya Sabha.
Herath was elected to the North Western
Provincial Council in 2000.
North Western Provincial Council polls 2009
Gazette in which dissolution was announced -
1579/2 of 8.12.2009
to be elected
*Excluding two bonus seats