Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Southern PC Elections: "worst since North Central Polls" says PAFFREL

As the elections for the Southern Provincial Council which will be held on October 10 nears, independent observers have declared that the polls have been marred by a disturbing number of violations and serious violence.

“It is the worse election since the North Central polls,” People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Deputy Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Bottom Line. PAFFREL reported 140 incidents of election violence yesterday and Hettiarachchi explained less than half were illegal propaganda activities and the rest were violence related and serious including 3 attempts to intimidate by shooting, 16 cases of assault, 36 cases of damaging party offices, 1 abduction attempt and 3 cases of damaging vehicles.

“In the last few days alone we have seen party candidates assaulted and we are unhappy with the situation,” he said, explaining that although several arrests were made in relation to these incidents, they may continue till the date of the polls. “We need greater contribution from the police, political parties and the citizens of the area to stem these incidents.”

His concerns were echoed by the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Media Spokesman Keerthi Tennakoon who said that in the Hambantota District alone, within the last two days seven incidents of JVP election offices being attacked were reported adding that since nominations were called election violence in the south has been increasing in gravity and number with CaFFE reporting 197 incidents, majority of which originated from the Galle District with 76, Matara with 60 and Hambantota with 60.

“The Southern Provincial Council elections are the worst in terms of law enforcement and inaction by the Election Commission,” he declared, “There is a clear bias towards the ruling UPFA party and the action taken by the Police against these incidents is questionable.” He added that illegal propaganda takes place in broad daylight within the urban areas of Galle, Matara and Hambantota but it remains unstopped by the Police. “Some cutouts have been removed in the vicinity of the Election Commissioners’ Department but the majority remains.”

He said that the structural soundness of an election has been destroyed with the Southern Provincial Council polls. “There is no independent Election Commission and there was a lack in communication. The Commissioner failed to bring the party leaders to a meeting before the elections began this time and failed to provide adequate funding to the law enforcement officials to combat illegal propaganda which gives them an excuse.”

However, Police Spokesman DIG Nimal Mediwaka said that the Police have taken adequate steps in the South. “The violations have not been too serious and we have deployed an additional force of 1000 police officers to prevent these incidents in the pre-election period.” He outlined the security plan during the election period on October 9, 10 and 11 with 7000 Police officers deployed to provide security to poll stations, to prevent intimidation or influence of voters on their way to the polling booths and to ensure a peaceful election. “As we see a trend of a fight for preferential votes, they will also be tasked with preventing clashes between party supporters among each other and with other supporters along with providing security for the counting centres.”

He added that a third security plan aimed at ensuring a peaceful environment in the post election situation was also in place to prevent rival groups from clashing. As for controlling illegal propaganda, he said that although the Police have been getting rid of propaganda material, supporters are very quick at putting them up again. “And unless we catch them red handed the posters and cut outs keep coming.”
Meanwhile, PAFFREL will deploy 1065 election observers with 918 of the 1485 polling stations in the Southern Province provided with stationary observers and the remainder covered by mobile observers. Galle District which has the most number of polling stations will be provided with 469 stationary observers, 50 mobile and 20 for Divisional Secretariats, Matara will be provided with 283 stationary, 40 mobile and 17 for the Secretariats. Hambantota will be provided 176 stationary, 28 mobile and 12 for the Secretariats while 10 observers will be stationed at the Election Department in Rajagiriya. CaFFE will deploy 225 observers to Galle District, 215 to Matara and 175 to Hambantota with identified hot spots provided with a larger contingent of observers.

© The Bottom Line

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Eleven JVP offices in Hambantota destroyed

Eleven election offices of the JVP were destroyed by gangs of thugs at night on the 4th states the media unit of the JVP. Some of the election offices that have been attacked and destroyed were at Beliatta, Pahala Beligalla, Ambalantota Depot Junction, Mirijjawila Adasiya Road, the office at the residence of Mr. Kumudu Sanjeewa, JVP candidate for Southern PC election at Debarawewa, the office at Wekandawala polling station No.1, Bandagiriya, Yahangala, Tangalle and Pahajjawa.

Meanwhile, the name board of Tissamaharamaya Pradehsiya Sabha, which is controlled by the JVP has been vandalized and the digital board put up by the Pradeshiya Sabha stating “Let’s rally to eradicate dengue” has been demolished and set on fire.

© Lanka Truth

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Britain demands freedom for Sri Lanka war victims

Britain on Tuesday expressed disappointment with Sri Lanka's handling of war-displaced civilians and demanded that they be given the freedom to leave state-run camps.

"Freedom of movement is critical if a humanitarian crisis is to be averted," visiting British Development Minister Mike Foster said after touring the camps, where over 250,000 civilians are being detained.

Foster, who began a two-day visit Tuesday, also voiced concern over the conditions in the camps.

Britain was helping Sri Lanka with resettlement as well as de-mining, he said adding, however, that he was "disappointed" with Sri Lanka's progress in allowing civilians to return to their homes in former war-zones.

Foster said 4.8 million pounds (7.6 million dollars, 5.2 million euros) is currently in the pipeline to assist Sri Lanka in resettlement work, but added that it could not use the money to transfer people from one camp to another.

"Mike Foster made clear that Britain's funding could not support people simply being transferred from existing 'closed' camps - which detain civilians for long periods of time - to new 'closed' camps," the British High Commission (Embassy) said in a statement. "Freedom of movement has to be allowed now."

Foster told reporters in Colombo that British aid in the post-monsoon season should be allocated to resettlement programmes, de-mining, and livelihood support programmes, not geared towards sustaining people in the camps.

"Our view is that those camps should not be permanent, should be a temporary fixture, and if we continue to fund day-to-day relief work then there is no incentive for the government to allow people to leave," Foster said.

He said Britain will also talk to other foreign donors to see if they would agree to withhold aid after the rains cease in a bid to force Colombo to dismantle the camps and free people.

In May, Sri Lanka ended decades of ethnic conflict after killing the top Tamil rebel leadership. Civilians who managed to escape the fighting have been held in internment camps which the government calls "welfare villages."

The government insists that they cannot be set free until they are screened for possible links with the defeated Tamil Tigers.


Related Links:
Britain tells Sri Lanka to free Tamil prisoners - Times Online
IDP centres ready for monsoon -

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Britain will stop funding at Sri Lankan war camps

Britain will stop funding projects at Sri Lankan camps where hundreds of thousands of war-displaced civilians are being held against their will, a minister said Tuesday.

Sri Lanka is holding nearly 300,000 people who fled during the final months of the government's war with Tamil Tiger rebels, which ended in May. The government says it is releasing civilians as fast as it can, but the process is slow because it first needs to screen for people with rebel connections.

Human rights groups have criticized the detentions as an illegal form of collective punishment and warned that the impending monsoon rains could create health crises in the low-lying, congested camps.

Britain's International Development Minister Mike Foster expressed disappointment Tuesday at the progress being made in releasing the displaced and said all British funding being used to run the camps would be pulled _ other than that needed to help with any emergency the rain may cause.

Foster said that $7.1 million out of a total allocation of $20 million for Sri Lanka would be held back and that money will only be released to aid groups engaged in projects that will help people return to their homes.

"What we believe is that post-monsoon, our funding should be allocated to recovery, demining, livelihood programs. It shouldn't be geared toward sustaining people in the camps," Foster said after taking a tour of the centers in the country's north.

"If we continue to fund day to day commitments of running of those camps, there is no incentive for the government to encourage people to leave the camps," he said.

Sri Lanka's government says more than 22,000 people have been resettled from the camps and that it hopes to send everyone home by the end of January.

Between 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the war.

© Taiwan News

Related Links:
Britain To Slash Sri Lanka Refugee Aid - ForexHound

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