SRI LANKA: Election fears rise on increased violence
Photo: Amantha Perera/IRIN
(IRIN) – Concerns are rising that Sri Lanka’s presidential election will be undermined after the deaths of four people in a spate of campaign-related violence in the past week, say election monitors.
The incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from his former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, raising tensions among supporters of both men ahead of the 26 January poll.
Election monitors warn that if clashes between rival political factions are not stemmed, violence could be a key factor in the first national election to be held after the end of the 26-year civil war last May.
“The slide towards more violence is really bad,” Keerthi Thenakoon, the executive director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), a national election monitoring body, told IRIN.
“Ordinary people don’t want to get hurt casting a vote. They would think, ‘Why should I get killed?’ and if thousands begin to feel like that, their choice will not be reflected in the final result,” said Thenakoon.
Three of the four killings took place in the district of Kurunegala, northwest of Colombo, within 72 hours.
A Rajapaksa supporter was killed and four others injured in a grenade attack on 18 January. A day earlier, a Fonseka supporter died after being assaulted with clubs, while on 16 January, a Rajapaksa supporter was killed in a shooting incident.
Early last week, a 60-year-old woman died after she was injured during gunfire while in a bus to attend a campaign rally for Fonseka near Hungama, a town about 220km south of Colombo.
Other clashes have been reported around the country, leaving dozens injured.
“The number of incidents is on the rise and the nature of the incidents is turning more violent,” said Thenakoon.
The monitoring body last week released a report that claimed irregularities during postal voting between 12 and 13 January, such as voter impersonation and illegal campaigning, which it said did not bode well for election day.
Police inaction alleged
The government has condemned the election violence and vowed to take speedy action against the perpetrators.
“The government will not allow anything to undermine this historic election, the first since the end of a quarter of a century of organized terrorism in Sri Lanka,” it said in a 15 January statement posted on its website.
However, election monitors say little has been done to control the poll-related violence.
DM Dissanayake, the national coordinator for the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), another independent body, alleged that police were inclined to record election-related complaints as minor incidents.
“There is also an apparent trend that investigations have not progressed quickly enough,” he told IRIN.
Officials with the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), the country’s foremost election monitoring body, supported the assessment.
“There has been no sign that any concrete action has been taken either by the political parties or the authorities [to buck rising violence], which is not a good indication,” Rohana Hettearchchi, PAFFREL’s executive director, told IRIN.
“We would like to see Sri Lankans take hold of this historic moment and be active in the democratic process,” the US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis, said in a 17 January posting on the mission’s blog.
“What’s most important is that Sri Lankans can do all of this without the risk of violence, intimidation or retribution,” she said.
Meanwhile, government efforts to resettle about 80,000 internally displaced persons from camps in the north before a self-imposed deadline at end-January continue, as part of its efforts to restore normality to the island nation.
Its sad to see that most of the violence is initiated by the ruling party.In the ake of defeat the ruling party has resorted to all forms of violance,blatent lies,and other forms of malacious activities to deceive the voters.Victory or defeat should be feaced bravely in politics.In the wake of defeat when politicians resort to violence we have to ask the question”How patriotic are they?
good for my sri lankans we are apita ratk athe ape vira sanpati mhinda obata jaya
Grenade attack on opposition activist’s house in Sri Lanka
Fri, Jan 22, 2010, 11:07 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Jan 22, Colombo: An unidentified group has hurled a grenade at the residence of opposition member and the General Secretary of the Mahajana Wing, Tiran Alles in Nawala early this morning, the police said.
The house and his vehicle caught fire after the attack and were heavily damaged. No one was hurt in the incident. Alles has reportedly escaped unhurt.
According to the police the attackers have come in a van and lobbed the grenade.
Last Monday the office and residence of non-cabinet Minister of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Jayaratne Herath were similarly attacked with a grenade. The Minister’s driver, 28-year-old Suranga Indrajith was killed in that attack.
Ruling party members say the Marxist JVP is reverting to the same violent methods they used during their uprising in the ’80s to intimidate voters.
More attacks on Fonseka offices
At least six election propaganda offices belonging to the common candidate General (Retd.) Sarath were vandalized late last night in separate incidents in the Gampaha district, a spokesperson for the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) said today.
They said armed mobs smashed and destroyed the offices after threatening those present with bodily harm and even death.
The incidents took place at Galwela Junction in Mahara, Mahabim at Biyagama, Makola, Galwala Junction, Pamuniwila and Malwana Junction, the spokesperson said.
He said the party had lodged complaints with the respective police stations and the Office of the Commissioner of Elections. (LB)
GOOD LUCK SLAVE ISLAND BOYS, MAHNDA WILL WON SURE
you are the our king of mahinda rajapaksha….. we are always with you….great……mahindata jayawewa!!!!!!!!