Politics

Issues

Focus

Spotlight

Interviews

Editorial

Insight

Sports

Business

Review

Arts

Letters

Nutshell

Now

Fashion

Archives

2nd April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 38

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

News

President Mahinda Rajapakse met with the Defence Minister of Pakistan Rao Sikandan Iqbal yesterday where cooperation between the two countries on defence related issues were discussed. Photo shows the President being welcomed by the Defence Minister before the commencement of their talks. -- Photo by Sudath Silva


President ponders general election

President Mahinda Rajapakse is planning to go for a general election mid year in the wake of the local government election results which saw.....

More...


Top News 

> SLFP says they can do it alone

> JVP to move out of government

> Sri Lanka has over 100,000 sex workers, reveals report

> LTTE doubts progress in peace process

More News.......

President ponders general election

President Mahinda Rajapakse is planning to go for a general election mid year in the wake of the local government election results which saw the SLFP securing a clear victory without an alliance with the JVP.

Prior to departing for Pakistan on Friday, the President had indicated to confidants he will go for a general election mid year if the SLFP led alliance performed creditably at the local polls. The other option the President had told confidants was to form a national government with the UNP to overcome the JVP's objections to the peace process and restore political and economic stability to the country.

The results, sources close to the President told The Sunday Leader, were better than expected with the JVP completely rejected by the people coming a poor third in most districts.

The JVP earlier claimed the party was responsible for Rajapakse's election as President and the survival of the UPFA in government. Friday's results proved the SLFP can stand on its own, a senior party source said.

The Sunday Leader learns, the President will now proceed with the peace process using Norway as facilitator and nip any opposition by the JVP in the bud using a national government with the UNP as a lever to keep the JVP in check.

Sources close to the President said if the JVP withdrew support to the government on the basis of Norway's role in the peace process in terms of the ultimatum issued earlier, Rajapakse would dissolve parliament and go for a snap general election in which the JVP will be reduced to less than 15 seats, in terms of the local poll results.

The President, these sources said, would also look at the national government option with the UNP after a general election which is expected to produce another hung parliament given the proportional representation system of elections.

"The President is forced to look at these options because of the JVP's intransigence on the peace process and Norway's role," the President's confidants said.

Meanwhile, President Rajapakse on Tuesday, March 28 hinted at a national government when he met with UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya, Kurunegala District MP Jayawickrema Perera and Secretary N.K. Weragoda where issues relating to election violence, police transfers, Samurdhi benefits and the Maga Neguma programme was discussed.

It is learnt, the President at the conclusion of the meeting had told Jayasuriya they should work together on a national agenda.

"Let's do something after the elections," the President had told Jayasuriya.


SLFP says they can do it alone

The People's Alliance (PA) emerged the overall winner securing 222 local councils at Thursday's poll with the United National Party (UNP) securing 32 councils.

 Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) emerged third winning five local bodies while Ceylon Democratic Unity Alliance(CDUA) and the JVPmanaged to secure only one council each. The ITAK and EPDP were elected uncontested to the Verugal Pradeshiya Sabha in the Trincomalee District and the Puthu-Kudiruppu Pradeshiya Sabha in the Mullaitivu District. The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) managed only to elect a member each to 10 local bodies.

The ruling UPFA won 09 municipal councils, 17 urban councils and 196 pradeshiya sabhas. The UNP secured 03 municipal councils, 14 urban councils and 15 pradeshiya sabhas. ITAK won a single  urban council with four pradeshiya sabhas. CDUA, atwo seperate independent groups and the JVP won a single pradeshiya sabha each.

The JVP which topped the UPFA lists in a majority of districts at the 2004 general election suffered a major setback with their votes almost halved. The JVP however polled more votes than they did at the 2002 local authority election.

The Jathika hela Urumaya (JHU) managed only to elect a member each to 10 local bodies.

Around 60% of eligible voters cast their votes, which is a significant reduction in voting when compared with the November presidential election.

Speaking in the aftermath of the victory to The Sunday Leader, General Secretary, SLFP, Maithripala Sirisena said that the results reiterated the voters' faith placed on President Mahinda Rajapakse and his government polices.

"As the SLFP General Secretary, I celebrate this success. It is encouraging for the party cadres to know that we have significant ground level support and political victories are possible on our own," he said.

Sirisena said that governing would also be made easy when parliament, provincial and now the local bodies are all governed by one political entity.

UNP Assistant Secretary, Tissa Attanayake said that though the party was hopeful of significant success, there was reason to feel happy about the results.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, UNP Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena said, usually it was near impossible for a political party defeated some four months ago to stand any good chance at a following local government election.

"But the situation was different on March 30. If you look at the 2002 local poll results, the UNP performed extremely well and won over 90% of the local bodies including the SLFP bastions like Attanagalla. The results prove that the government had failed to convince UNPers," he said.

Commenting further he said "The JVP has only two options. Either they should get together with the government and get a few ministries and try to do some work for the country or they should sit down, do some serious planning and re-organise their party. You cannot fool all of the people all of the time and innocent people who live in villages are no longer getting caught in their web of lies," he added.

As for the JHU's humiliating defeat, party activist Udaya Gammanpila's explanation was that there was a lower voter turnout among the middle class voters which had a drastic impact on their electoral success.

Party MC UC PS Total
UPFA 09  17  196  222
UNP 03 14   15   32
ITAK  - 01  04   05
CDAU -   -  01  01
Independent 1 -  -  01  01
Independent 2  -  -  01   01
JVP   -  -  01  01


JVP to move out of government

The JVP is to work independent of the government following its poor showing at the local government elections, it is learnt.

A politburo meeting of the JVP was summoned last night to discuss the party's poor performance at the election and the reasons for it.

The party hard-liners led by General Secretary Tilvin Silva and former Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake who are in a majority have decided to push for the party to function independent of the government to prevent a further deterioration of its base, it is learnt.

The hard-line group has argued that the JVP lost ground because seniors like Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weera-wansa identified the party too much with the government despite President Mahinda Rajapakse moving away from the agreement signed prior to the presidential election.

However, JVP sources said, while the party would act independent of the government and withdraw support in parliament, no attempt would be made to topple the administration until such time the party reorganises itself and weakens the SLFP electorally.

The sources said the JVP will intensify its campaign to oust Norway from the peace process and agitate against the government's handling of farmers' issues in the first phase.


Sri Lanka has over 100,000 sex workers, reveals report

By Jamila Najmuddin

There are half a million child labourers and over 100,000 commercial sex workers in the island, a report handed over to President Mahinda Rajapakse last week revealed.

The report was compiled and presented to the President by members of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR).

The report said that although it was nearly impossible to provide accurate statistics about the number of children involved in prostitution, a survey conducted showed that 10,000 children between the ages of six and 14 were kept in brothels and an additional 5,000 children between 10 and 18 were working in tourist areas.

However, international and local monitoring agencies said that they could not confirm or deny these figures as a survey on child labour had not been conducted since 1999.

These agencies also maintained that latest figures on child prostitution could not be obtained as the numbers had increased over the past few years.

According to the TCHR report, Sri Lanka is currently termed as a 'paedophile's paradise,' and in 1997, it was considered the principle source of child pornography for the United States and Europe.

"Childcare workers in Sri Lanka estimate that between 100,000 and 120,000 children are being prostituted, many of whom were orphaned during the 14-year civil war. According to a 1996 study by End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, almost 30,000 boys are in prostitution in Sri Lanka," the report said.

In addition to child prostitution, the report said that other forms of commercial sex were also increasing in the island.  It is estimated that one-third of women and children in prostitution in Sri Lanka were trafficked.

The report further states that according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates, there are currently between 250,000 and 500,000 child labourers in Sri Lanka. However ILO was not in position to confirm the figure to The Sunday Leader.

"The ILO cannot confirm these figures as child labour is divided into different categories. The statistics available to the ILO are those provided by the government," National Coordinator Shyama Salgado said.

"The most common forms of child labour are domestic employment, involuntary begging on the streets, child prostitution, working in the informal sector, in the gemstones industry and in sectors such as tourism and fishing," it stated.

The problem of child labour is especially prevalent in the plantation sector and in 1997, the total resident labour force of the plantation sector was estimated at 305,000 of which 33,000 were child labourers below 14 years of age, the report said.


Deeply unhappy over government's failure to disarm paramilitaries

LTTE doubts progress in peace process

The LTTE has expressed the view that there will be no progress in the peace process as long as the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse adopts an "irreconcilable attitude to the proper implementation of the truce."

The LTTE has however decided to attend the second round of talks scheduled to commence on April 19 in Geneva.

LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham told The Sunday Leader Friday the LTTE will participate in the talks irrespective of the SLMM report on CFA violations not being ready. He said the SLMM has a new head of mission who needs time to familiarise with the ground situation.

The SLMM last week told The Morning Leader its report on CFA violations was unlikely to be ready before the next round of talks in April.

However Balasingham said the LTTE was "deeply unhappy over the reluctance of the government to disarm the paramilitaries."

"Therefore the dialogue at the next session would most probably be bogged down to issues over upholding of the obligations of the CFA," Balasingham told The Sunday Leader.

He also said the LTTE leadership was concerned about the security of the negotiating team at the Bandaranaike International Airport and has sought an assurance of guarantee for the safety and safe passage through the terminal.

Balasingham last week met Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim and expressed his concerns. Minister Solheim is scheduled to meet President Rajapakse on April 6 for a follow up discussion where the LTTE's concerns will be communicated.


Farmers to protest in Colombo

By Chintaka Fernando

Farmers are to hold a massive protest in Colombo shortly. Convener of the Progressive Farmers Federation, M.K.Jayatissa told The Sunday Leader that  farmers do not even get the Rs.22 that is government's set price inclusive of the sack.

"The government had allocated Rs.1.75 for each kilo other than standard price of Rs.17.50 to cover the expenses of sack, packing, storing labour etc. It is Rs.87 a 50 kilo bag" he said.

The officers at stores either do not pay the money for sacks nor give money, according to Jayatissa.

"The officers make farmers to carry the bags of paddy and store them. Farmers have to work like slaves to sell their paddy," he said.

Jayatissa furtheralleged that the officers were saying that their senior official had stolen that extra money allocated for farmers. He also said that the farmers were becoming very uneasy, as the New Year is emerging and all the paddy purchasing will stop by April 8.

"All farmers won't be able to sell their produce before April 8. If they are unable to do it then they would have no money to celebrate New Year which is the biggest festival for them" he said.

He further said that the farmers of the area had now got together and are going to hold a massive protest in Colombo soon, Jayatissa warned.


Extra bus and train services for the holiday season

By Shezna Shums

THE Sri Lanka Railway Department and the National Transport Commission are making special arrangements to meet the extra transport demands for the New Year holidays General Manager, Sri Lanka Railway Department, K.A.Premasiri told The Sunday Leader that extra trains will be run two or three days before the New Year holidays start.

These extra services will continue during the holidays as well as after the holidays when people are returning to Colombo and other major cities from their villages.

Some of the extra train services will operate to Galle, Matara, Badulla and Anuradhapura.

Also speaking to The Sunday Leader was National Transport Commission, Deputy Director, Wipula Wallimune who said that the commission has already had discussions with the provincial councils as well as the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) and received their full cooporation to meet the transport demands during the new year period.

"Extra buses will be leaving Colombo on April 12 and 13, for people who are going to their villages,"

"Arrangement have also been made to have a 24 hour bus service during this peak period, while buses plying to the interior will also be operating  so that if passengers reach their main town by night they will still have transport to their villages,  explained Wallimune.

Over 200 CTB buses and over 300 private buses will be in operation  during this holiday period.

Some of the  places to which extra buses will operate are Galle, Matara, Kalutara, Badulla and Bibile.

From  April 1 to April 20, there will be extra buses plying from the main towns and villages to Colombo when people would be getting back to places where they work.


Desmond denies allegations

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Former president of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL)  and Barrister-at-Law Desmond Fernando has denied allegations made against him in a daily English newspaper (not Leader publications) dated March 30, 2006. Fernando claims that the article is a rag-bag of inaccuracies, false allegations and defamatory statements.

In response to the said publication, Fernando had said that it is not the practice of the Executive Committee (EXCO) of the BASL to approve the contents of any newsletter of BASL and that, it is a matter left entirely to the Editorial Board, consisting of President's Counsel Dr. J de Almeida Gunaratne and attorneys J.C. Weliamuna, Kishali Pinto Jayawardene, Dr. Shivaji Felix and R. Puvidaran.

 Fernando had further said that the EXCO decided that the newsletter should be printed, a fact which is quite contrary to the publication . According to Fernando, the approval of the EXCO was necessitated as the then BASL Secretary Anoma Goonetilleke had informed the Newsletter Editor that BASL would not pay Ceylon Printers for the March 2006 newsletter. This refusal was due to the Editor failing to comply with a decision by the EXCO in November 2005 to call for quotations from Printers in Colombo. Goonetilleke had copied the letter to Ceylon Printers Limited.

When Fernando was informed of the problem by the printer, the matter was taken up by the EXCO which authorised publication and further authorised him to be the publisher of the newsletter and the printer was informed by Fernando that his name would be put as the publisher.  As time was consumed, Fernando appealed to Lake House Printers and Publishers Limited who took on the task of printing the newsletter. Fernando notes that an advertisement in the newsletter itself paid for the task and that he did not reach an NGO for same.

In addition, Fernando states that the newsletter does not contain any material defamatory of Chief Justice and present BASL President Nihal Jayamanne.  Fernando claims that no cross talk had taken place between him and Jayamanne and that the newspaper article had stated precisely, the opposite of the truth.


PA supporter killed

The only election related killing was recorded in Beliatta on Friday (31) when a PA supporter was allegedly killed by JVP supporters.

According to Beliatta Police, the deceased N. U. Mysel (42) was killed by two suspects in the Beliatta town  Friday afternoon.

Mysel, a PA supporter worked as a security officer at the Telecom tower in Beliatta.


Lanka faces avian flu threat

The threat of avian flu in Sri Lanka is still present and this threat keeps increasing as other places around the world detect infected birds says Director General, Animal Production and Health Department, Dr. S.K.R. Amarasekera.

Last week five dead birds were found in the Mannar district and these birds are yet being tested at the Animal Production and Health Department to determine whether they were infected with bird flu or not.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Dr. Amarasekera stated that islandwide surveillance is currently being done to keep a close tab on the bird flu situation.


Jaffna University VC functioning from Colombo

By Arthur Wamanan

Newly appointed Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Jaffna University, Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole still does not feel safe enough to assume duties in Jaffna. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Prof. Hoole said that he had already commenced work as the VC, but from Colombo. "It is not a must for me to go to Jaffna to assume duties. I have already issued instructions to Jaffna," he said.

Speaking further on the protests held by the university employees on March 30 on his appointment he said that it was a total breakdown of law and order. "I was selected according to the normal procedure. The council selected three persons including me and then the President selected one out of them," he said. Speaking on the threats he said that there was no respect for democracy. "The students have openly said that they would physically assault me. Where is the respect for democracy?" he asked

He also added that only a few students were against his appointment. Prof. Hoole added that he had in fact given instructions for the campus to function normally and to conduct all the exams as planned. "I appointed a deputy VC, but he was not allowed to do his duties by the students," he added.

Speaking on the letter sent to the registrar of the Jaffna University, he said that it was a letter explaining to him that he was appointed following thenormal process. "The registrar did not want to identify me as the VC, so I sent the letter explaining the process," he said.

He denied allegations that he had in fact sent a letter threatening the Registrar. Jaffna University Registrar P. Kandaswamy said that he had received a letter from the VC. "I was not threatened at all. It was about some disagreements we had before," he said. He also said that the university was functioning without any hiccups and that the examinations were going on at the moment.


Rajapakse to be appointed SLFP leader at party convention

At the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) National Convention to be held on April 7, President Mahinda Rajapakse is to be appointed as the party's new leader. The Sunday Leader learns that former President and Party Leader Chandrika Kumaratunga who held this post for many years is to resign.

 The new national organiser of the party or the deputy general secretary's post is likely to be given to Member of Parliament Dallas Alahaperuma.

According to inside sources Foreign Affairs Minister Anura Bandaranaike is tipped to be the party's new vice president and Kumaratunga is to receive a special position within the party.

Meanwhile Kumaratunga who has spoken to some of her close friends from London has stated that she will not allow a change in the party's present position. However President Rajapakse is working towards the taking over of the party leadership.


PA proves a point

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The people have spoken, and spoken differently at the local government election last Thursday (30). They have raised the hopes of some political parties, and dashed the hopes of some.

The People's Alliance (PA) emerged the overall winner securing the majority out of 263 local bodies whereas the UNP won28 bodies with the JVP winning only one, the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha.

Interestingly enough, the voters this time around have sealed the fate of two political parties and given the stamp of approval for two.

"It is clear that the people voted for one of the two main political parties. In a sense, the voting pattern is traditional, but stable," noted Spokesperson, PAFFREL, Kingsley Rodrigo.

At the November 18 presidential election, the UPFA candidate, Mahinda Rajapakse with the combined votes of the PA and the JVP only obtained 50.295 of the total vote. It was a close call for Rajapakse with defeated UNP candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe polling 48.43% of the total vote. Some 98.88% of the cast vote was valid.

The voting pattern is also one that supports the impending peace talks. The voters have chosen the two main political parties which have accepted power sharing on principle.

In stark contrast, the southern extreme have been effectively eliminated or significantly emasculated, as in the case of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).

The JVP which undertook an expensive political campaign to secure the "village governments" was relegated to the backseats in the local bodies, managing third place largely due to the absence of other forerunners.

In doing so, the JVP's call to hand over the village administration has been overlooked. The PA victory also establish the fact that the PA could get elected on its own and does not require to be in an alliance with the JVP to sweep the poll.

Likewise, the two main parties have received significant support which indicates the voters' collective desire to see both the PA and the UNP at the helm of affairs. It is a prudent political call at a time of peace negotiations where the government and the main opposition could reach a consensus formula on resolving the ethnic issue.

For this the forum has been well created. The JVP has suffered an unprecedented defeat given its campaign and the anticipated popularity.  

On the other hand, voters have simply eliminated the JHU from the local scenario paving the way for the main parties to take control.

According to statistics available at the time of going to press, the voter turnout was an all time low and in the range of 35%.

According to Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, this was due to local polls not focusing on national issues.

"People tend to consider this a less important poll, but it is not. It is an opportunity to elect members who build the culverts and maintain roads and therefore more important than the more distant parliament representatives," Tennakoon said.

The low voter turnout has been not only due to disinterest. A large number of voters in the plantation areas were turned away from booths due to lack of national identity cards (NICs). Besides them, tsunami voters also suffered due to the production of the NIC being made compulsory.

According to Colombo Returning Officer, Mahinda Deshapriya, the cast vote on March 30, which is around 35% does not augur well. "It is a drastic reduction when compared with the voter turnout during the presidential poll," he observed.

However, the new alliances of the government with the CWC and the UPF have not increased the government's vote bank.

Thursday's election, according to election observers was marred by violence though murders and incidents of arson were not reported since nomination day to the conclusion of the poll.

However, monitors have called for the cancellation of the Nawalapitiya Pradeshiya Sabha election results owing to acts of thuggery and intimidation by government supporters.

Overall, the election day itself recorded fewer incidents with the results showing a healthy trend of supporting moderate politics by political parties that share a common basis on how to resolve the ethnic issue.

Just 19 days before the second round of peace talks, the results may carry more meaning than it generally does.


"We showed our grassroots strength"

By Chinthaka Fernando

The victorious People's Alliance (PA) yesterday (1) claimed that the results have clearly established the SLFP as the country's largest political party.

SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena said the solid base of the party had been well established by the results. " We have showed our grassroots strength," Sirisena said.

He further said the results were also an endorsement of the government's political programmes, delivered four months after a new government under a new president was voted into power.

The driving force

He added the party cadres would also feel encouraged by the results which prove that not only the government's programmes have gained support but the PA as an alliance still remains powerful. "The driving force is the SLFP of which I am the general secretary," a happy Sirisena noted.

However, poor turn out of the urban middle class voters was the touted reason for the humiliating electoral defeat suffered by the JHU, according to JHU activist Udaya Gammanpila.

He said that a majority of the urban middle class, the JHU's main vote base, had not cast their votes. "Altogether there was a poor reaction to the election from the voters but this was especially evident in urban areas " he said.

He further said the public had lost faith in local governments, for they do not address any national level problems. He also said the public is now fed up with elections and that is another reason for the poor turn out.

Meanwhile, UNP Assistant Secretary Tissa Attanayake said the UNP did not expect a miraculous victory since the local polls were conducted just four months after the presidential election. "We never expected a miracle in this election but we hoped to win around 75-100 councils," he told The Sunday Leader.

Second position

However, the UNP's expectations were also not met with the country's largest political party being relegated to second position, having won 32 local bodies at the time this edition went to press.

Attanayake said a lot of election related violence was reported  in specific districts where government politicians were behaving like common criminals. He added that on the election day especially in places like Nawalapitiya, Laggala, Chilaw, Kekirawa, Anamaduwa and Gampaha, election related violence had been reported.

"SLFP Parliamentarian Mahindan-anda Aluthgamage was personally indulging in violence in Nawalapitiya " he alleged.

The JVP also had sent a letter of protest to President Mahinda Rajapakse stating MP Aluthgamage had indulged in violence.


Abuse of state property low

By Jamila Najmuddin

Election observers have expressed satisfaction over the marked decrease in the abuse of state property at the recently concluded local polls.

They attribute this largely to the exposure of such abuse during the previous elections.

CMEV officials confirmed that a total of eight incidents of misuse of state property were reported. Three were against the UNP, two against the UPFA, one against the SLFP and three against the police.

Officials added that while this number was relatively low, the Elections Commissioner would be urged to investigate all the complaints.

Abusing state resources

PAFFREL Chief, Kingsley Rodrigo said that both the ruling party and the UNP abused state resources such as vehicles wherever possible to conduct their campaigns. The reason, according to the monitors, is that these two parties are in control of the majority of the local bodies which allows them more access to state resources than any other political outfit.

Rodrigo added that the ruling party had however utilised the state media to its partisan advantage and stressed that only the publication of such instances and creating a public debate would lead to a reduction of such blatant abuse.


Trouble in Ampara

By Risidra Mendis

At last week's local government elections, a large number of voters in the Ampara District were prevented from casting their votes as they could not produce their National Identity Cards (NIC).

Voting prevented

General Secretary, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), M.T. Hasan Ali said the number polled was little over 60%. "In the Tamil areas such as Weeramunai and Valathatitty voter turnout was around 25%. In the Ampara District voters were prevented from voting, as they did not have their NICs. Officials at polling booths refused to allow voters to vote using their thumb print on polling cards," Ali said.

According to Ali among the isolated incidents a government vehicle was used to transport voters in Sammanthurai and some of the party's voters received injuries, allegedly at the hands of SLFP members.

Police inaction

"One of our party member's is in hospital with head injuries. However the police refused to act on our complaint and are yet to take action on our complaint," Ali said.

According to Ali the SLMC contested in Sammanthurai and Karathivu in the Ampara District under the UNP, while in Trincomalee the SLMC contested in Kinniya, Muththur and Kuchchaveli in the Eastern Province.


Election violence and malpractice

By Shezna Shums

Some 80,000 policemen were deployed on election duty throughout the country.

People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and Centre For Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) monitors, as well as police and army personnel were deployed to monitor the elections.

Election monitors

PAFFREL Chief  Kingsley Rodrigo said his organisation deployed a total of 16,000 local election monitors - 14,500 were stationary while 1,500 were mobile monitors.

"The police and army monitors were also deployed to ease any tensions where voting was taking place," said Rodrigo.

Police Public Relations Director, SSP Rienzie Perera said around 80,000 police personnel were deployed for monitoring while the assistance of the army was also sought.

He noted that in Polonnaruwa, Gampaha, Nawalapitiya and Gampola no incidents were reported. 

Difficulties

CMEV had deployed 45 field monitors, 20 mobile teams comprising 40 CMEV observers and approximately 600 polling center observers covering most areas.

CMEV monitors in some areas, including Kesbewa encountered difficulties in gaining access to polling centers in the early hours as police denied access.

The monitors also recorded instances where polling centers had run out of finger print cards, intended for voters without National Identity Cards.


High number of legal suits

By Arthur Wamanan

This local government election will be remembered for a special reason - the number of legal suits filed by political parties as well as individuals.

Several political parties filed petitions in the courts against the Elections Commissioner and other officials against the rejection of their nominations lists in various areas.

These petitions included those filed by UNP General Secretary, N.V.K.K. Weragoda on the rejection of the UNP's Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) list which led to the postponement of the CMC election.

The list was rejected by the Colombo returning officer for the inclusion of a candidate who was under 18 years of age.

Pending cases

People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said that a total of 42 petitions were filed in court, out of which, 20 cases were still pending.

"There are still some cases on nomination lists pending, and most probably they would be rejected by the courts," PAFFREL Chief Kingsley Rodrigo said.

Speaking further on the reasons for the high number of lawsuits during this year's local government elections, he said the candidates did not understand the law properly.

He said the main issues were the age range of the youth included in the list and handing in the nomination list in time.

The law

"The law states that 40% of the candidates in the list have to be over 18 and less than 35 years old. Some of the political parties have not realised this and have included names regardless of age. These are practical issues that they should understand," he said.

He also added that some of the lists had to be rejected as they did not contain the required 40% of youth representation.

He also said that the nominations lists of some parties were rejected as they did not submit them in time.

"The parties should have submitted their lists before 12 noon on the last day, but some of the parties failed to submit their lists in time," he said. However, Rodrigo added that some parties failed to submit the lists even though they had arrived in time.

"That is their fault. The Elections Commissioner cannot accept their list if they delayed submitting the list," he said.


Horoscopes and deeds as identity cards

By Risidra Mendis

It was a heart-rending story when the plantation workers went to vote last Thursday (30) carrying their birth charts and property deeds to establish their identities.

Ever since the southern voters began clamouring for making the national identity cards mandatory in order to be eligible for voting, the plantation leaders have been opposing it, given the fact that despite serving the Sri Lankan economy for over a century, the large majority of plantation families still have no national identity cards.

Deprived of the basic amenities and access to higher education, this sector, one of the most under privileged had no proof of identity when they voted. For the lack of an identity issued by the Registrar of Persons, they carried their property deeds while some carried their birth charts to polling booths.

This time around, the Ceylon Workers' Congress worked with the ruling alliance in Badulla, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya districts and there was anticipation that the government votes would swell as a result.

On Thursday (30), however  a significant number of plantation sector voters in the Nuwara-Eliya, Badulla and Kandy districts were prevented from casting their votes by officials at polling booths, as they did not have their National Identity Cards (NIC).

Their alternative documents  were not legally recognised.

Meanwhile The Sunday Leader learns that many estate workers were deprived of their voting rights also due to the fact that they were not allowed to leave their estates in the morning to cast their votes.   

Speaking to The Sunday Leader,Vice President, Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), R. Yogarajan said voters in Panwila in Kandy, Walapane in Nuwara Eliya and the Ambegamuwa Pradeshiya Sabha areas in Nuwara Eliya and Badulla were prevented from casting their votes as they could not produce their NICs.

"Despite the notices displayed at the polling booths that voters can cast their votes by producing a polling card with their thumb impression or fill up a declaration form and put their thumb impression upon it, the presiding officers insisted that voters produce their NIC to qualify for voting," Yogarajan said.

Meanwhile, Parliamentarian V. Puthrasigamoney said there was less than a 70% turnout of the plantation voters at this year's local government elections. "At 10 a.m. there was only about 20% to 30% voter turnout. The reason for the low turnout was due to the estate workers not being given leave to cast their votes in the morning. According to estate rules,  workers need to pluck at least 15 kgs of tea before they could leave the estate to cast their vote," Puthrasigamany said.

According to him when estate workers leave their estates at noon they do not have sufficient time to cast their votes. "There is a belief that the morning crop of tea contains a better flavour than the evening crop. Therefore estate workers are forced to work during the morning hours. I feel very sorry for the estate workers for the way they are treated and deprived of their rights. The estate workers should be given at least five hours to cast their vote. However they get only three hours. This is a serious violation of their voting rights," Puthrasigamany said.

According to him there were a few isolated incidents where his own daughter's name was identified as that of a male voter. 

In another incident, a female voter at an Udapussellawa polling centre was turned away due to her name being not included in the updated voters' list. 

Further, it had been told that the said voter was listed as "recently deceased." "The female voter had to go back to the Grama Sevaka in her area and return with a letter of confirmation of identity to be able to cast her vote," Puthrasigamany said. 

However, plantation voters ended up largely not voting as the lack of national identification forms proved a hindrance. Further, they were affected by the lack of a supporting letter from the grama sevakas rendering them eligible voters.


Recent killings not election related - poll monitors

By Jamila Najmuddin

Election observers have labelled Thursday's local poll as one marred by violence with over 250 violent incidents being reported since the date of nomination but they are happy to observe that no election related murders have occurred.

Monitors have written to the Elections Commissioner requesting the annulment of results of three local bodies. Last week's killing of Minister Maithripala Sirisena's personal secretary, M. L. Dharmasiri was termed by election monitors as a 'non-election related incident' claiming that the assassins have taken advantage of the election period to settle a personal grudge.

"The election period is well known for revenge attacks. To date we have not found any evidence leading to Dharmasiri's killing being election related," Co-convener, CMEV, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said. Officials from People's Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) maintained the same.

Since the close of nominations on February 16, CMEV has recorded a total of 274 incidents of election related violence. Of this total, 118 have been categorised as major incidents out of which 73 were incidents of assault. The highest number of major incidents were reported in the districts of Colombo (34), Gampaha (32), Anuradhapura (24), Kurunegala (23), Ratnapura (21) and Kandy (17). The highest number of assaults took place in the North Western Province (17).  Fourteen incidents involved the use of fire arms.

CMEV had written to Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake urging annulment of the poll in the Nawalapitiya UC, Trincomalee UC and the Chilaw PS. CMEV reports on election day include 249 complaints of election related violence and violations of election law throughout election day. Of this, 77 were classified as major incidents, including five cases of hurt, one of grievous hurt, and six cases of assault.

There were also reports of intimidation, grabbing of polling cards and identity documents from voters on election eve. CMEV has also expressed serious concern over the level of violence when compared with the presidential election and said that the responsibility of ensuring a free and fair election rested with the political parties. Meanwhile, PAFFREL said most of the violent incidents were caused by candidates belonging to the ruling party against candidates from the UNP and JVP.

PAFFREL Chief, Kingsley Rodrigo added that another severe setback was the decision to postpone polls in the northeast thereby denying voters their right to elect members. In addition, over 200,000 internally displaced persons were once again deprived of their right to vote. " It is not fair that this right often is violated. As a section of the people who have been deprived significantly, this right should be protected," said Rodrigo.  PAFFREL has urged the government and other parties concerned to find a peaceful solution that would make countrywide elections and free and fair voting for all a reality.


©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :
editor@thesundayleader.lk