CaFFE Election Report # 52.
Violence increase – Underhand tactics proliferate
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has received 863 election related complaints by December 31, 2014, out of which 79 are incidents of election related violence.
UNP MP requests STF protection for 5 electorates in Kandy
UNP MP Hon. Lakshman Kiriella has written to the Commissioner of Elections requesting STF security for Pathadumbara, Nawalapitiya, Gampola, Hewaheta, and Yatinuwara electorates in Kandy stating that there were series of attacks on opposition activists in recent weeks.
He added that the UNP office in Gampola was burned and New Democratic Front (NDF) Provincial Councilor, Channa Galappatti was assaulted on December 30 at Nawalapitiya. The MP added that the police is acting in extremely biased manner and asked the Commissioner to deploy STF in Kandy with an emphasis of above mentioned areas.
Unsolicited anti – Sirisena text messages from Dialog number 0766677344
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) write to the Commissioner of Elections to take immediate action regarding anti – Maithripala Sirisena text messages being sent to a large number of Dialog subscribers from Dialog number 0766677344.
One message, sent at 7.30 am today in Sinhala said that ‘a new constitution will be proposed by President within a year, according to his will, and this amendment will change executive powers and electoral system.’
The second text, in English sent at 11.54 am, states that ‘ Sirisena copied Modi’s clothes & actions. Copied Mahinda’s budget. Now copied Mahinda’s website mahinda2015.com. Choice is yours: visionary leader or puppet?’
“We believe that millions of subscribers have received these unsolicited messages and we kindly request you to take appropriate action about this as we believe this will continue,” CaFFE asked the Commissioner.
Illegal recruitment continues
The Ministry of Defence has made permanent 3000 civilians serving in the Army who have completed 180 days pf service. There are close to 11 000 such persons in the Army. Although the MoD claims that this is a part of the 2015 budget proposals, it is a gross violation of election laws which bans the recruitment of persons to the state sector during election times.
Tense situation between Buddhsit monks
A tense situation occurred between two groups of monks exchange heated words at Kaduruwela, Polonnaruwa, A group led by a Buddhist monk were distributing leaflets in support of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Kaduruwela when they were interrupted by a group of persons who support the Common Opposition Candidate.
Heated words were exchange between the two groups but police prevented any escalation.
100 policemen to get bikes
100 policemen will be given motor cycles on January 3, 2015 at Police Field HQ in Thimbirigasyaya. NDF has lodged a complaint with the Commissioner of Elections and DIG – Elections asking them to stop this distribution as it is done in manner promoting President Rajapaksa.
Media Unit – CaFFE
December 31, 2014 –
CaFFE election report # 54
Government uses violence to deter opposition activities
In parallel to electoral level campaigning by Maithripala Sirisena there is an increase in UPFA propagated election violence. CaFFE observes that this trend is reaching systematic proportions and slowly turning into a wave of political violence. Upto December 31st CaFFE has received 1007 incidents of election law violations and election violence. 105 of them are election violence which includes 19 incidents of usage firearms.
Violence follows Maithripala
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has noted that the government has unleashed a systematic campaign of intimidation to intimidate opposition supporters. When Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena holds a rally, election related violence spikes in the related area targeting opposition activists and infrastructure.
CaFFE has compiled a list of such incidents in areas where Sirisena held rallies. A look at the list clearly shows that violence follows Sirisena and that police have taken little action to assure the safety of opposition activists and their property.
For example there was virtually no political campaigning in the Northern and Eastern province until a few days ago. There were no incidents of violence. However after Common Opposition Candidate stated that he will hold a series of rallies in the Eastern Province this week, a number of election related incidents of violence has taken place.
On December 26, election office of the Common Opposition Candidate at Sandiweli, Eravur was bombed around 11 pm. Police have been told that a group of TMV members, party of former Chief Minister Pilleyan, carried out the attack.
On Deecmber 27, a Ranil Wickremesinghe rally in Akkareipattu to support the Common Opposition Candidate was pelted with stones twice between 7 and 8 pm. The stones were thrown when Wickremesinghe was speaking and one stone hit the microphone. However he continued with his speech.
On Sunday a group of Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena, supporters were assaulted yesterday near Sivananda Ground, Batticaloa. The group was assaulted around 3.45 pm while they were preparing the stage for the Sirisena rally which is to be held today at Batticaloa. A group of TMVP supporters had arrived and threatened UNP’s Batticaloa organizer, K. Mogan and his supporters. One UNP supporter was kidnapped and two others who were brutally assaulted and hospitalized.
Violence in Hambantota
More recently election related violence spikes in Hambantota after Sirisena held a series of rallies. “A number of opposition activists have been attacked in Hambantota District after Common Opposition Candidate, Maithripala Sirisena held a series of rallies. We saw the same trend in Galle most recently,” said Executive Director of CaFFE, Keerthi Tennakoon.
Opposition activists, including street drama troupe, ‘Weediye Virodaya’ were attacked on December 22 at Hambantota by a goons led by Hambantota Mayor Eraj Ravindra Fernando, CaFFE states that police took no action to protect the victims.
“Leader of ‘Weediye Virodaya’ Jayathilaka Bandara had asked local opposition supporters to meet them at the bus stand fearing that they will be attacked. However despite the presence of opposition politicians, including the leader of opposition at Hambantota MC Auyb Khan, they were assaulted. We have received reports that Fernando was armed and that he tried to kidnap Bandara. Although they could not kidnap him many were assaulted and six had to get medical assistance at the hospital. However many didn’t even want to go to the hospital fearing further attacks. It is important to note here that Eraj Fernando had been accused earlier on in 2014 of assaulting and intimidating opposition parliamentarians with a weapon, which he explained as being a toy gun” Executive Director of CaFFE, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon said.
He added that “elections are only a part of political rights and currently the right of holding an opinion, the right to expression, the right to campaign peacefully and the right to free movement of opposition activists are being constantly violated. These street performers protested against many regimes but it was the first time in recent history that they were assaulted like this”.
The troupe was also assaulted at Eppawala on December 05. The members of the troupe claim that the attack was carried out by supporters of SM RanjithSamarakoon, Chief Minister of North-Central Province.
Meanwhile shots were fired at a stage built for Sirisena’s December 27 rally in Walasmulla on December 28 morning around 1.30 am. Meanwhile a group of Sirisena supporters traveling in a three wheeler after attending the rally were assaulted on Namaneliya, Udahagoda. Two persons were severely assaulted. In addition Mahinda and Wanniarachchi, two staunch UNP supporters in Malwatte, and three of their associates, who joined Sirisena’s propaganda activities, were threatened by a group of armed men traveling in motor cycles on December 27 between 10.30 to 11.30 pm. The assailants had pointed firearms to the UNP supporters and demanded them to refrain from assisting Sirisena’s campaign.
We saw the same trend in Galle earlier
Galle was also relatively peaceful until Sirisena held a series of rallies two weeks ago. A number of his stages were attacked and a number of activists were assaulted before and after the rallies. This reached a climax with the resignation of Wanduramba police OIC. He left because he couldn’t carry out his duties due to political interference. This also means that the police is in no condition to protect the opposition candidates or supporters.
Police allowed the common opposition alliance to hold a rally opposite Ahangama bus stand today (date) at 4 pm. However a group that arrived on December 16 night have destroyed the decorations. Former southern provincial councillor of the UNP Maithri Gunaratne said that a group of policemen, led by Ahangama OIC, threatened those who were decorating the stage.
Violence in Kolonnawa
Meanwhile a group of Sirisena supporters who were pasting posters in Wellampitiya on December 21 announcing the Common Opposition Candidate’s rally in Wellampitiya on December 24 were assaulted by a group arriving in a white van. The assailants were armed and two persons who were stabbed with a sharp object were hospitalized.
A few days later an unidentified group has shot at the stage for common candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s rally which is to be held at the Umagiriya grounds,
Kolonnawa on December 24.
Speaking to CaFFE Kolonnawa UNP organiser and provincial Councillor S.M. Marikkar said that the gunmen had arrived in a Defender and a van around 11.30 on December 23 and had shot using two firearms. Although 04 policemen and 02 Army soldiers were deployed at the scene for security, they had looked on while the attack took place. The two policemen were later suspended by the police and several suspects were arrested.
Intimidation in Kandy
A group of Sirisena supporters who were pasting posters announcing December 9 rally in Kandy were assaulted at Kadugannawa on December 8. Around 30 men carried out the attack and former UNP provincial councillor, Jayaweera Bandara was wounded. This was just hours before the Kandy main rally.
A group of Maithripala Sirisena supporters who were returning home after attending a rally in Kandy on December 9 were assaulted near Maha Palama, Katugastota. The assailants arrived in a cab and four persons, residents of Ambatenna, were admitted to Katugastota Hospital. Another group of supporters who were returning home in a bus were also attacked.
A few hours later the residence of UNP Patadumbara Pradesheeya sabha member, Atula Ekanayake, was attacked by a group arriving in a Defender Jeep. Ekanayake played a leading role in organizing Sirisena’s rally in Kandy earlier that day.
A hotel in Pallathalawinna, Kandy where former President Chandrika Bandaranaike held a meeting on December 9 was vandalized by a group arriving in Defender Jeeps. Windows of 21 rooms have been broken.
The above mentioned incidents show that there is a systematic campaign targeting opposition activists in areas where the common opposition candidate holds his election rallies. The only known incident of opposition disturbing government campaign activities was on 30th of December in Polonnaruwa when Buddhist monks campaigning on behalf of Maithripala Sirisena came into conflict with monks campaigning on behalf of President Rajapaksa. Therefore, there is an obvious attempt to deter public participation and violation of people’s right to engage in political activity and politicians rights to propagate his or her political message in a peaceful manner. In addition it shows that the police are incapable of protecting the lives and property of those who oppose the government.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election theme is ‘a stable country and a secure future’. However above mentioned incidents, undermine the stability of the country and the security of a large segment of Sri Lankans. CaFFE urges the law enforcement authorities to take steps to protect the lives and property of opposition activists and restore people’s faith in a free and fair election. If not we fear that the public will increasingly question the legitimacy of the elections and it might lead people to take violent steps to protect themselves. We have all seen what happens when a group of Sri Lankans lose faith in the electoral and law enforcement systems and I believe no one wants to see a repeat of that.
Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon
Executive Director – CaFFE