The Sunday Leader

Increase In Election Violence

By Waruni Karunarathne

The election monitoring body CaFFE has received five complaints related to the Parliament elections, since the parliament was dissolved on June 26, midnight.

Executive Director of CaFFE Keerthi Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader that these incidents were reported from Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Mahiyangana, Ratnapura and Weligama.

Among the incidents reported was a murder where a supporter of United National Party (UNP) MP Thalatha Atukorale, Thushara Dewalagama, was killed last week at Deiyanne Dola, Noragallewatte, Ratnapura.

“He was assaulted while travelling to organise the election campaign of MP Atukorale. Dewalagama contested for the cooperative elections last month. Four police teams are investigating the matter and there is a high possibility that this attack was politically motivated,” he added. According to Thennakoon, CaFFE has learnt that the last call he received was from a UNP candidate who had asked him to come to discuss political strategy. According to him, in Weligama, supporters of UNP’s Gayan Sanjeewa were assaulted by supporters of Hemal Gunasekara at Denipitiya June 30, night. He added that the other incidents included attacks and destructions on poster campaigns.

“In Anuradhapura, a number of cut-outs of UNP MP Chandrani  Bandara were destroyed by an organised group on June 29. The attack is suspected to be carried out by an opposition politician of the area. People in the area have informed Police and when the police stopped the assailants it was found that one person was a driver of the former CM,” he added.

According to CaFFE, four large cut-outs at Kurunegala, depicting images of Kurunegala organiser MP Asoka Abeysinghe and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, were destroyed. “A group arriving on a three wheeler carried out the attack and the footage of the attack was captured on CCTV. One of the attackers is alleged to be a supporter of Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, one of the closest associates of Wickremesinghe.  There is strong competition between the two men and around three months ago, Kariyawasam carried out a campaign against Abeysinghe. There are three UNP MPs in Kurunegala, Abeysinghe and the other MP did not receive any ministerial position because of the internal party issues. It is possible that conflicts might occur between UNPers,” CaFFE recorded.

Meantime, CaFFE recorded that in Mahiyangana, United National Party (UNP) carried out a nationwide poster campaign on June 29 and a group of UNP supporters pasting posters in Mahiyangana were attacked by a group of supporters of Thenuka Vidanagamage, a SLFP MP who is renowned for violence. “During the 2014 Uva Provincial Council elections a number of violent incidents were reported from Mahiyangana and Vidanagamage was alleged to be behind most of these attacks. Vidanagamage is also one of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s closest allies,” Thennakoon noted.

CaFFE further noted that apart from the incident in Kurunegala, all the other attacks were carried out by SLFP supporters on UNPers. “This is the first time that opposition has carried out a series of attacks on the party in power. In addition there is a high possibility that there might be a number of clashes due to preferential votes,” Thennakoon added.

Further he added that reportedly seven senior policemen were transferred last week.  “This is a gross violation of election laws which prohibits recruitment, transfers, promotions or termination of service during the election period,” CaFEE noted.

However according to Thennakoon, given the fact that independent commissions have not been established, this was not a completely unexpected development. “CaFFE believes in institutions and not on people, thus it was inevitable that John Amaratunga would act in a similar manner to Gotabaya Rajapaksa. During recent elections, under the Rajapaksa regime, the former defence secretary carried out a number of police transfers that adversely affected the performance of police during elections. Given the fact that no structural changes have been made, CaFFE fears that police will continue to be intimidated during this election,” he expressed his fears.

Further according to CaFFE, a number of unions have told CaFFE that a number of jobs were given at NARA in the past few days.  “However our investigations revealed that the announcement of employment was made a few months ago and interviews were held on June 6-7. Nevertheless there is always a possibility that recruitments will be used as a tool in the election,” he noted.

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