Relative calm prevailed in the 23 Municipal and Urban Councils which went for elections on, apart from the shooting incident in Mulleriyawa, Kolonnawa which took the life of former MP Baratha Lakshman Premachandra.
However large number of election law violations was reported in all areas where the election was held, except two. The biggest election law violators were provincial level politicians who are just entering national politics. Through out the Election Day such individuals including Rohana Dissanayake of Matale, Johnston Fernando and Jayarathne Herath of Kurunegala and Duminda Silva of Colombo, roamed the streets in vehicles with a large number of supporters. Apart from the above mentioned areas such activity could also be seen in Rathnapura, Hambanthota, Galle and Matara. Vehicle Parades All Around Although the Department of Elections successfully intervened to stop vehicle parades in Matale and Kurunegala, they were unable to do so in Kolonnawa. Unfortunately one of these illegal vehicle parades was the main cause of the shoot out in Mulleriyawa which lead to the death of Premachandra.
Mahendra Rathwatte and Asango Dodanwala of Kandy, Ravindra Fernando of Hambanthota, Chandima Dissanayake of Badulla, Kapila Gunawardane of Rathnapura, Mohammad Hilmy and Mohan Weerakoon of Matale, Anuradha Peramunage and Nimal Chandrasiri of Kurunegala, Dayan lansa of Negambo, Lakshman Gunawardanae nad Ajith Basnayake of Gmpaha, Madura Vithanage of Kotte and Sumudu Ruksham of Kotikawatte were among the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidates who held such parades. Chandika Kumara of Kotikawatte, Mohammad Muzammil and K Ram of Colombo, Siminda Wickramasinghe of Kandy, Lakshman Munasinghe and Saranga Vithanage of Rathnapura, Dilrin Aluvihare of Matale, Chandana Krunarathne of Nuwara Eliya and Royce Fernando of Negambo were the United National Party (UNP) candidates who carried out similar activities. Meanwhile Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) candidates behaved similarly in Kalmunei.
UPFA supporters harassed UNP supporters on the Election Day at Bumiyangoda, Aluvihare, Harasgama and Hindu College in Matale. They had also threatened and damaged property of UNP polling agents the previous day (October 7) causing the UNP polling agents to arrive late at their duty stations.
Meanwhile SLMC supporters hassled Tamil National Alliance (TNA) supporters near Al Bakaria College, Kalmunei. The animosity between the two sides nearly lead to a clash near Muhaddi Siva Shakthi Vidyalaya and police and CaFFE observers mediated to prevent bloodshed.
There was a high voter turnout in all areas where elections were held, CaFFE saw over 68% voters turnout in Kalmunei, Kurunegala, Rathnapura, Nuwara Eliya and Hambanthota. Apart from
Colombo all other areas saw a voter turnout of over 65% which is a significant increase compared to previous local government elections.
Election law Violations
There were 89 incidents reported during the Election Day 68 of them dealt with election law violations. 5 incidents of assault were reported in Kolonnawa, Kalmunei and Matale while 15 incidents of intimidation were also reported, majority from Kolonnawa, Kalmunei, Rathnapura and Matale.
Role of the Department of Elections
The Department of Elections played a proactive role when if came to dealing with complaints. It took the initiative in stopping vehicle parades in Negambo, Matale and Gampaha and advised Police to provide additional security to Kolonnawa. It also beefed up security in areas where there was initial low voter turn out due to intimidation and prevented politicians from entering restricted areas, eg Galle.
The Department allowed tow CaFFE observers to monitor counting in Colombo for the first time since our beginning. Compared to last election many candidates were satisfied with how the counting process was conducted in DS Senanayake College, which acts as a nerve centre in the counting process. Although the Election Day was peaceful apart from the shooting incident in Mulleriyawa there were many election law violations leading up to the elections and they had an impact on the free and fair nature of the election. If the election commissioners directives to the Police and the other relevant officials (Ref. COL 09 at 10.30 and COL 14 at 12.40) were implemented this very unfortunate incident might be prevented. However Cafe commends the Department of Elections efforts to run a smooth operation and hopes this is the beginning of better things to come.
Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon
Oct. 12th, 2011