Ethnic minorities in Gampaha being threatened by
goons – Lawrence Madiwala
Gampaha District Leader Lawrence Madiwala claims the
dissolution of the WPC was a clear indication as to
how the government intended using its resources to
secure electoral victory.
According to Madiwala, the Tamil and Muslim
communities in Hendala and Wattala areas have been
threatened by government goons and warned not to
cast their votes.
“Though this is the reality in our district, there
is police inaction. The incidents are also not
widely reported due to fear of reprisals,” he added.
Further, Madiwala accused the previous WPC
administration of failing to upgrade the schools and
added that a future UNP council would allocate
‘enough funds’ to the education sector and ‘would
not appoint unqualified people to head provincial
Politics over dead bodies
the Western Provincial Council election campaign
took a deadly turn with the recording of the first
pre election killing of Nandana Balage, a JVP
supporter, the Marxist JVP is now cashing in on the
murder of its comrade.
The JVP member arrived in
on April 4 to attend the ‘April Heroes Day’
celebrations of the party and stayed back to help in
the election work.
Balage was not a candidate but yet fell victim to
the escalating violence in the province.
April l6, while the party cadres were travelling
towards Veyangoda in a vehicle to decorate a venue,
another vehicle had drawn up alongside and ordered
the passengers to put down the shutters. The alleged
assassin had threatened Balage not to support the
The vehicle bearing registration number WP PB-0674,
a purple colour double cab, said to be the one used
by the alleged assassin is now parked at Veyangoda
Police Station. But the number plate has been
carefully concealed from the public eye by covering
it with tape.
Balage was the father of a two-year-old child.
The driver of the vehicle in which Balage travelled
had allegedly seen MP Piyasiri Wijenayake and
another National Freedom Front candidate in the
But Piyasiri Wijenayake is denying any involvement.
He has vowed to quit politics if found guilty of
having any connection with this murder. Amidst
allegations of police inaction despite eyewitness
accounts, Attanagalle ASP Ujith P. Liyanage said
that the ongoing investigation will soon be
Large scale loss of employment a major concern
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
The Gampaha District in the Western Province has
seen much development in the last few years. Most of
the country’s enterprises and industries are
confined to the Western Province and the Gampaha
District plays an active part in the country’s
economic growth given that the international airport
as well as two Free Trade Zones (FTZs) — Katunayake
and Biyagama — are located in the district.
Next to the Colombo District, it is Gampaha that
contributes most to the growth of the national
The Gampaha District stands well above the country’s
official poverty line. The official poverty line at
national level for February 2009 was Rs. 2887 and
Gampaha District stood at Rs. 3059.
While contributing towards the country’s economic
growth, the two FTZs have resulted in reducing
unemployment in the district.
However, the impact of the global economic meltdown
has resulted in many companies operating in the FTZs
facing closure or large-scale retrenchment of
According to a private sector trade union, the Inter
Company Employees’ Union (ICEU), around 53 companies
in the garment, building, warm clothes, cement, gem
exporting and finance industries have shut down and
more than 54,000 workers have lost their jobs.
The closure of the Synotex Company alone in the
Gampaha District resulted in 3000 employees losing
Meanwhile, many factories in the FTZs are also
finding it difficult to pay the monthly salaries of
employees. According to the ICEU, their overtime,
bonuses, increments and transportation facilities
have been curtailed.
Some companies have sent employees home on leave,
ranging from one week to two-month periods and
officials in some companies are also looking at
extending the leave granted to employees.
The government as part of its economic stimulus
package presented last December made several
proposals to help the export sector. They include
the granting of 5% of the export value as
manufacturing relief to the apparel and leather
product exporters, and the reduction of diesel and
furnace oil prices, removal of 15% electricity
surcharge, reducing the interest rate and cancelling
the Economic Service Charge for a period of one
The Gampaha District plays a key role in the tourism
sector as well.
Negombo, situated about 30km north of Colombo in the
Gampaha District is a premier holiday destination in
Negombo’s economy is primarily based on fishing and
tourism, with the latter being a key revenue earner
for the country. However, the tourism sector in the
country has not fared well since the last quarter of
2008 due to the global economic crisis and the
security situation in the country.
The government’s economic stimulus package had
several proposals for the tourism sector, which
include the providing of loans on concessionary
terms, extension of loan repayment periods and
reduction of interest rates, non charging of penal
interest on late payments of loans obtained by
tourist hotels and the removal of the 15%
electricity surcharge on all tourist hotels.
How these measures help Gampaha to come out of the
economic crisis remains to be seen.
An upsurge in violence
By Arthur Wamanan
Election monitors express serious concern over the
escalating election related violence, claiming that
the level of violence was much higher compared to
the recently held North Western and Central
Monitors warned that there was a gradual increase in
election violence and that it would take a turn for
the worse if authorities fail to curb it.
Spokesperson for Campaign for Free and Fair
Elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon told The Sunday
Leader that the issue of duplication of polling
cards has raised questions about the suitability of
conducting the poll on April 25 as scheduled.
According to Tennekoon, the names of at least 62,000
persons had been repeated on the voters’ list which
could lead to a tremendous election fraud which
could alter the final results.
However the Elections Commissioner’s Department said
that the issue has been ‘addressed.’
Tennekoon however in not convinced and demands to
know how the details of an individual voter could be
duplicated in the database.
“How was it that they could have entered the same
name or the identity card number twice in the
database? It is not a minor issue and there are no
easy answers,” he said.
Top officials of the Elections Department plead
innocence and state that the flaw was caused by a
The department officials said the software had been
used for many years and that a suitable replacement
Question of credibility
But the CAFFE Spokesperson also raises the question
of credibility, and questions the possibility of
conducting a free and fair poll.
Tennekoon claims that the Elections Commissioner has
gone on record saying that over 20 people had
received more than one polling card, and claimed
people should expect a situation much worse than
what is being described by officials.
“Names of more than 62,000 people have been
repeated. It is not something to be brushed aside so
easily,” he noted.
Monitors also predicted intra-party rivalries taking
a violent turn in the days to come. Executive
Director, People’s Action for Free and Fair
Elections (PAFFREL), Rohana Hettiarachchi said this
trend was becoming apparent as so many political
parties were contesting under the UPFA umbrella this
According to PAFFREL, 40 incidents of election
related violence have been reported from the Western
Province so far.
majority of the 19 complaints have been reported
from Colombo followed by Gampaha (12) and Kalutara
Attacks on political offices
Sixteen instances of attacks on political offices
have been reported. Hettiarachchi added that 14
instances of assaults have also been reported.
JVP member, Nandana Balage was killed in Veyangoda
last week and five offices of the JVP were attacked
in Pannipitiya. The offices of UNP Biyagama
organiser Ruwan Wijewardene and Kaduwela organiser
Sujeewa Senasinghe too have come under attack.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Monitoring Election
Violence (CMEV) stated that it had received 75
complaints of election related violence.
“This time it is very bad. The last time, around 48
instances of election related violence were reported
from North Western and Central Provinces combined.
This time we have received 40 complaints from the
Western Province alone. The situation definitely
looks bleak,” commented Hettiarachchi.
Campaigning will end at midnight April 22.
Incidents from Dec. 14 to Apr. 10, 2009
Election law violations
Misuse of state property
Total # of complains as @ April. 8th 00.01
Gampaha must produce the next chief minister
– Prasanna Ranatunga
Gampaha District Leader Prasanna Ranatunge claims
that Gampaha voters are keen to elect a chief
minister representing the district as Colombo and
Kalutara have produced chief ministers before.
“On two occasions, I topped the UPFA list and I
believe it will happen this time also. If I am
appointed chief minister, I will give priority to
education, health and road development. These are
neglected areas,” Ranatunge said.
Refuting allegations levelled against him for
misusing public property, Ranatunge said he never
used government vehicles for his campaign but said
the charge may hold true for other candidates in the
Gampaha Fact File
Number of registered voters
Number of political parties contesting —
Number of polling booths
Electorates in the district – Wattala, Negombo,
Katana, Divulapitiya, Mirigama, Minuwangoda,
Attanagalla, Gampaha, Ja-ela, Mahara, Dompe,
Biyagama and Kelaniya — 13 in number
(Courtesy Deputy Elections Commissioner, Gampaha)
State sponsored violence rampant — Waruna Rajapakse
The JVP is openly accusing the ruling UPFA
administration of resorting to killer tactics to
suppress the JVP and secure victory on April 25.
JVP Gampaha District Leader Waruna Rajapakse claimed
that while one party supporter has been killed, it
was easy to predict further violence as polling date
Rajapakse who has served in the last two WPC
administrations alleged government machinery was
being used to curtail the strong JVP election
propaganda and accused the Veyangoda police of
failing to nab the owner of the vehicle that was
used to kill party supporter Nandana Balage on
Monday, April 6.
Accusing the previous WPC of not fulfilling the
peoples’ aspirations, Rajapakse said “Millions of
rupees have been spent to maintain provincial
ministries, but some have nothing to show for the
monies spent. Not a single house has been built for
the people, not even for the tsunami victims. The
industries that were in operation for decades have
shut down,” he noted.