Pre-Election Violence In Jaffna Creates Fear Among Voters
- TNA confident of support nevertheless
- Protection for candidates who request it, says Elections Commissioner
By Maryam Azwer
Election crimes that have taken place in Jaffna during the days leading up to the July 23 local government elections are creating a certain amount of fear among voters in the area, said Tamil National Alliance (TNA) General Secretary, Mavai Senathirajah.
Senathirajah also claimed that candidates belonging to their party faced difficulties in carrying out their campaigns.
Elections monitor, People’s Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) voiced similar concerns. “Altogether, we have received eighteen (18) complaints, including from the JVP and TNA, that they aren’t free to carry out their campaigns,” said PAFFREL Director, Rohana Hettiarachchi, on Friday (15).
Commenting on who may be responsible for the election related crimes that have taken place, Hettiarachchi said that PAFFREL had not witnessed the crimes first hand, but “allegations are against the Government, and the civil armed forces.”
Local government elections are being held in the North after nearly two decades, and the present situation is not conducive to a large voter turn out, nor does it set the base for free and fair elections, explained Hettiarachchi.
Last Thursday (July 7) witnessed two ugly displays of harassment towards TNA election contestants in Jaffna. The head of a dead dog was stuck on the gate of election candidate Shanmugam Sivakumar, and the dog’s body laid out at his doorstep. Also, TNA Manipay organizer K. Gaurikanthan said his front yard was flooded with sewage water on the same morning, allegedly emptied there by a bowser that drove by shortly after midnight.
“We’re not sure who is responsible for these crimes, but we believe these are planned attacks to build up fear,” said TNA MP Senathirajah. “The people (in the North) largely support the TNA, and those responsible for these attacks don’t want people to cast votes for the TNA. They think all this will reduce support for the TNA,” he said.
Despite this, Senathirajah said that support for the TNA, which has a large voter base in the Northern Province, was expected to remain strong. “People are strong in their support for the TNA and our manifesto,” he said, although he also added, “Our worry is that the voter turn out will be low because of these violent activities.”
Meanwhile, Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said that after looking into the matter, an Additional Commissioner had been sent to the North to carry out discussions, with the army, police, and members of the ruling UPFA.
“We can’t give every house and every candidate protection, but if they do make a request we can allow it. If they ask for two policemen, we can discuss the matter with the police and provide two police officers for protection,” said Deshapriya. He however noted that such a request was yet to be made.
“We have also established a complaints unit and we have asked political parties to send in their complaints. We are trying to create a peaceful atmosphere, but it is very difficult to do anything about the stoning of houses at night,” he said, adding that complaints of two such incidents had been received so far.
“We are trying to introduce a code of conduct for political parties and candidates, but this must be taken up voluntarily as well,” said Deshapriya.