Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sri Lanka: Violence, blunders mar Postal Voting

By Sandun A. Jayasekera - Postal voting for the April 8 general election ended yesterday against the backdrop of election monitoring groups reporting several incidents of violence from around the country and of mistakes and blunders by elections officers.

Peoples Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said its elections monitors had reported serious lapses by election officials from many parts of the country such as instances of election officials failing to report on time, failing to provide necessary documents and equipment such as ledgers and seals to facilitate postal voting.

For instance voting could not be held at the Wilgamuwa education office on Thursday as the Returning Officers failed to turn up. Mr. Hettiarachchi said his organization had deployed about 1,000 monitors mainly at police stations, SLTB depots and hospitals to monitor the two-day postal voting and by yesterday PAFFREL had received 142 complaints of election violence.

Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE) spokesman Keerthi Tennekoon said postal voting at Bandarawela, Kurunegala, Gampaha and Matale had been disrupted in varying proportions.

“This was due to the inefficiency of elections officials,” he said adding that some 1,250 observers were deployed island wide to monitor the postal voting held on Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Tennekoon said an escalation of election violence had been reported from Matale, Kurunegala, Dambulla, Ampara, Ratnapura, Galle, Matara and Polonnaruwa during the past few days.

“For the first time, the elections commissioner has allowed us to observe the counting and the declaration of results,” he added.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in a media communiqué said it was deeply concerned by reports alleging that attempts had been made to disenfranchise postal voters by officials in their capacity as certifying officers.

CMEV said some 235 monitors deployed by it had observed election malpractice by election officials and political partiy agents at Sabaragamuwa, Central, Uva, Western and Eastern provinces.

Meanwhile an Elections Secretariat source said nearly 96 per cent of the 415,432 eligible voters had cast their votes by last afternoon.

© Daily Mirror

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