The Sunday Leader

“Present The Proof!” – Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives

Many local election monitors have observed grave incidents of election law violations and violence ahead of the Presidential Election whereas some government ministers have directed a number of accusations at local election observers of being biased towards the opposition common candidate Maithripala Sirisena. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that those are very loose accusations directed against the local observers given that the accusations are being directed by the government, the very people who are engaged in misusing and abusing state powers and resources.

Excerpts of the interview:

By Waruni Karunarathne

 

Q: According to your observations, what can you say about the pre-election situation?

A: The pre-election situation has already been marred by incidents of violence. We all have observed that there is a greater abuse of state resources. The opposition candidates and supporters have been denied access to venues to hold their meetings. There were some burning of stages and so on. Some incidents were seen as intimidations. Violence that was expected has been manifested but not yet in the full measure that everyone thought and for the same reason it might get increased closer to the polling date.

 

Q: Is there any way that you as election monitors can counter such intimidations and violence?

A: The point is that at the end of the day everyone who wants to go and vote, come out in large numbers and vote in the way that they want to. That kind of strength or the reaction to violence would be to reject it categorically at the polling booths.  In terms of trying to prevent, its increasing and intensifying will only give publicity to the incidents of violence, call on people to resist it and call on the political parties to ensure that their supporters do not engage in violence. We had an incident recently. There was a demonstration allegedly organized by Minister Wimal Weerawansa and his supporters outside the headquarters of the United National Party and then it led to a chaotic situation.

 

Q: Are you satisfied with the support we have sought from the international election monitors to observe the election process?

A: Our primary reliance is not on international observers. Our primary reliance is on domestic observers. They are the ones who know the country, they are the citizens. They are the ones who are stakeholders of the whole process. International observations help the process – because they are independent and impartial. But it is the independence, integrity and commi    tment of the local observers that is more important at the end of the day.

 

Q: Some government ministers have accused local observers saying that they are biased towards the opposition common candidate Maithripala Sirisena. How would you respond to that?

A: This is a very very loose accusation made by people in Sri Lanka. If there is proof they should present them without making just accusations. Present the proof! Present the evidence! Second thing is that it is not surprising that it is government ministers who come out and say things like that because nine times out of ten, it is the government who is engaged in abusing and misusing state resources. Therefore it is hardly surprising that those accusations are coming from that quarter without any evidence.

 

Q: What are the observations that you have made with reference to the postal voting process?

A: There are various incidents that were reported to us. We have to guage the reported incidents to see whether it had an impact on certain areas.

There have been reports of incidents alleging that some people having to show their ballot papers before depositing them in the boxes. There have been incidents of certain amount of intimidation. There have been incidents where posters of the ruling party candidate and a speech or interview he gave on television was broadcast within the close proximity of the postal voting stations. We have incidents like that – it indicates that perhaps some politicians cannot resist the temptation to engage in election malpractices like that.

We have already put up communiques in all three languages in our website about these incidents and we will continue to do that on a regular basis right throughout the election campaign and during the election. We have informed the Election Commissioner and have informed the other stakeholders as well. We are not the police or agents of law and order in the country. We are citizens. Once we report it to the relevant authorities, we hope based on the evidence that support the claims that they will take necessary measures.

 

Q: There are allegations against state media being used for election law violations. Do you see such grave misuse of state media?  

A: It is the integral part of gross misuse of state resources. It is in fact a large part of that. We hope that people in this country will do whatever they can do to ensure that we have a free and fair – and violence free election – and ensure that thereby the results are a true reflection of the popular view.

3 Comments for ““Present The Proof!” – Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu”

  1. gamarala

    The Chairman UGC has brazenly circulated a letter to all VCs calling for university teachers to swear allegiance to the president in writing !
    The state TV and radio openly carry out propaganda for the president.
    State vehicles are used to transport hired goons to the president’s meetings.
    Maithripala’s meetings are disrupted and his supporters assaulted.
    This is shameless thuggish behaviour.
    This must stop.

  2. Margosa

    Well, international observations cannot be impartial all the time. Not 100%..
    Furthermore, pre and post election violence is nothing new to this country. Its not fair to accuse just one side when everyone knows what happened in the past regimes while individuals from those regimes are representing the opposition now.
    Can anyone from those regimes say thuggery and violence was not prevailing during their tenure?

  3. Punchinilame

    Can the EC order MoD to have the Forces restricted to their Camps on 8th Jany.
    and if their services are required only with the consent of the IGP and the EC.
    This will make the turn out to its best ever.

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