The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported that as of 2pm on polling day, there was a turn -out of 35-40% across Sri Lanka with a low turn- out in Jaffna of around 10%. There were several reports of threat and intimidation against voters and polling agents. At present 75 Major incidents have been reported to CMEV and 196 Minor incidents.
As reported in the Election Day communiqué 1, CMEV has continuously received reports of discrepancies in the marking of fingers with indelible ink. This is an issue of concern as it can lead to possible malpractices and impact the integrity of the poll.
CMEV has also received several cases where posters and cutouts of candidates from various parties have been seen near polling stations- a violation of Election laws and guidelines which is disregarded by many candidates and political parties across districts.
PREVENTION OF VOTING
Trincomalee district, Trincomalee electorate, Kuchchaveli, Vivekananda Maha Vidyalayam, hall nos 1 and 2, polling stations (no. 80 and 81). 12:00pm - A complaint was made by U. Ravikumara, ACTC candidate (no. 4), to CMEV that Susantha Punchinilame, UPFA candidate (no. 7) together with other UPFA supporters were moving around with arms in a vehicle bearing the license plate (62-6091) around these two polling stations, at noon. They threatened and intimidated Tamil voters and demanded that they did not vote.
CMEV reports that a busload of Tamil voters from Trincomalee Town whose polling station is in Kutchaveli, were stopped in Irakandy by the Police. The Police claimed that the bus did not have a route permit and could not be permitted to transport voters. The voters got down and had to find alternate modes of transport. CMEV spoke to the TNA who confirmed the incident and further alleged that polling cards were snatched from the voters.
INTIMIDATION AND THREATS TO VOTERS
Galle District, Hiniduma Electorate at 2.30am - CMEV Field Monitor reported three incidents relating to the alleged intimidation of supporters of UPFA candidate Nishantha Muthuhettigama (no. 6). An unidentified group of individuals had come to the residence of Amarasiri Abeysinghe a supporter living in Weerapana at 2.30 am and threatened to kill him if he voted. They also inflicted minor damages to the house. An unidentified group of individuals had fired into the residence of PK Dharasana, a supporter of Muthuhettigama, in Damwala at 2.40 am and threatened to kill him if he voted. CMEV monitor reported that the house of Chaminda Karunaratne in Talatgalla, another supporter of Muthuhettigama had been attacked and some damage was done to the windows of the house. Two shots were reportedly fired into the house at around 3.10 am.
Kandy District, Nawalapitiya Electorate, Angolla Kanishta Vidyalaya Polling Station, Polling Station no. 02. - CMEV Mobile Monitor reported that supporters of UPFA candidate Mahindananda Aluthgamage (no. 4) had assaulted several Tamil voters, forcibly taken their polling and Identity cards near the polling centre and chased them out of the centre at around 10.30 am.
Vanni District, Mannar Electorate, Arippu Roman Catholic Tamil Maha Vidyalayam, polling station no 47, 09.40 am - CMEV field monitor reported that supporters of Rishard Badurdeen, UPFA candidate (no. 1), were seen in white vans bearing registration numbers JE 1020 and SR 1029 openly canvassing for Rishard Badurdeen . They asked people to vote for him and distributed leaflets bearing his name, symbol and number.
Hambantota District , Tissamaharam Electorate 9.00 am - CMEV Field Monitor reported that a double cab No JS-8969 with supporters of UPFA candidate Chamal Rajapakse (no 7) was seen in the area engaged in campaigning.
Digamadulla District, Samanthurai Polling Division - CMEV Field Monitor reports that announcement are being made via the mosque loudspeakers urging potential voters ‘to go and vote, as the names of those who have not voted can be identified.’ The announcements were made between 1.30 pm and 2.00 pm.
THREAT TO POLLING AGENT
Digamadulla District, Pottuvil Electorate, Akkaraipattu Cultural Centre, polling station no 84. 12:00pm - CMEV Monitor reported that M.S. Rivas, a Polling Agent of the UNP, was threatened and forcefully thrown out from the above center by supporters of UPFA candidate A.L.M Attaullah (no. 02). M.S. Rivas subsequently filed a complaint at the police station, bearing CIB 326/1020/2010/48.
CAMPAIGNING ON ELECTION DAY
Ratnapura District, Pelmadulla Electorate, MorathotaVidyalaya, Polling Station No 29: 9:00am - CMEV Mobile Team reported that leaflets containing the numbers of UPFA candidate Deepal Gunasekera (no. 4) and UNP candidate Dunesh Gankanda (no. 11) were being distributed near the polling station.
Anuradhapura District, Horowpathana Electorate, Muttarawewa Vidyalaya Polling Station(No.06), 9:15 am - CMEV Mobile correspondent reported that a group of 50 supporters of UPFA Pradeshiya Sabha member M. Hussain held a meeting near the polling station and canvassed voters going to the polling station to vote for the UPFA.
Anuradhapura District, Horowpathana Electorate, Ruwanwali Maha Vidyalaya Polling Station (No. 09), 9:30am - CMEV Mobile Monitor in Horowpathana reported that cards displaying the candidate number of UPFA candidate Duminda Dissanayake (no. 6) were being distributed near the Polling Station by his supporters.
Anuradhapura District, Horowpathana Electorate, Sinhala Walahawiddawewa Vidyalaya/Rathmalgahawewa Polling Station (No. 01), 9:45 am - CMEV Mobile Monitor, Horowpathana reported that some leaflets of UPFA candidate Duminda Dissanayake (no.06) were being distributed near the Polling Station by his supporters.
Vanni District, Mannar electorate, Roman Catholic Tamil Mahavidyalayam, polling station no 51, hall no 03, at 10.25 am - At the entrance of the polling station supporters of RizardBadurdeen (no. 1) were seen distributing leaflets bearing his symbol and image.
Hambantota District, Lunugamwehera Electorate , OyagawaRanawarnawa Junior School, Polling Station No 115, 8.40am - CMEV Monitor reported that an enlarged laminated photograph of UPFA Candidate Mahinda Amaraweera (no. 1) was visible close to the Polling Station
Matara District ,Deniyaya Electorate , Pattigala Junior School, Polling Station No 57, 8.30am - CMEV Field Monitor reported that there were small cutouts within 500 meters of the Polling Station, of UPFA Candidate Chandrasiri Gajadeera (no. 8), UPFA Candidate Sanath Jayasuriya (no. 10) and UPFA Candidate Lakshman Yapa Abewardena (no. 1)
Hambantota District , Tissamaharam Electorate , Angunukolawada Junior School , Polling Station No 111, 9.05am - CMEV Field Monitor reported that supporters of UPFA candidate Mahinda Amaraweera (no.1) were seen pasting posters in the area.
Digamadulla District, Ampara Electorate, Ampara Gamini MahaVidyalaya, polling station 127, 10.45 am - CMEV monitor reported that UPFA supporters were seen transporting voters in vehicle bearing registration number 59-6860 to the above polling station.
Jaffna district, Kankesanthurai Electorate, Seenipanthal junction: polling stations Elavalai Holy Family Convent Maha Vidyalayam 06 and MareesanKoodal Roman Catholic Tamil School no 07 and Elavalai St Henry’s College no 08, at 10.55 am - CMEV Monitor reported that supporters of Douglas Devananda, UPFA candidate (no. 08), were seen transporting voters in a blue van bearing registration number NP – HS 7294 to the above polling stations.
© Centre for Monitoring Election Violence - media communiqué No.2
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Voting in Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections has ended with a record-low turnout compared to previous national elections, officials said Thursday.
As polls closed at 4 pm (1030 GMT) only an average of 55 per cent of registered voters had turned up at the more than 10,000 polling stations throughout the country. Polling had started at at 7 am.
Some 74.4 per cent voted in January's presidential polls, while at the last parliamentary elections in 2004 over 75 per cent turned up.
'From all parts of the island we are hearing that only small groups are turning up for voting,' an election official in Colombo said.
Sri Lanka has held a string of elections in the last two years, holding five provincial elections last year, as well as presidential and general elections this year.
President Mahida Rajapaksa called the presidential elections two years ahead of schedule in a bid to cash in on his popularity after the military's win over Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels.
The lackluster response from the voters has also been attributed to complacency, as it seemed certain that Rajapaksa' ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was heading for a victory.
Fourteen million people were registered to vote, including in areas previously held by Tamil rebels in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
It was the first parliamentary election in 33 years without the rebellion of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were defeated in May.
The government said special arrangements have been made for the members of the ethnic Tamil minority who were displaced by the war and are still living in refugee camps to cast their vote.
But election monitors said that the majority of the displaced who had registered to vote were unable to do so.
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) monitoring group said that in one of the polling station in the northern district of Kilinochchi only 362 out of 7,504 registered voters turned up, while at another station with 10,240 registered voters only 283 had voted.
'Despite claims by the government that arrangements had been made for the displaced voters to vote freely there was lot of confusion about where they should vote and about the logistical arrangements such as transport for them to go voting,' the CAFFE said.
The main parties contesting the poll are the ruling UPFA, and the main opposition United National Party, headed by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
General Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lanka's former army chief, is also a candidate at the head of an alliance backed by a Marxist party. He is currently in military custody accused of conspiracy and fraud during his time at the head of the armed forces.
The low turnout could favour Fonseka's party as the Marxist JVP party had got most of their supporters out to vote.
Fonseka also contested the January presidential elections after a fallout with Rajapaksa.
In the northern part of the country a Tamil minority party which earlier was working under the direct influence of the Tamil rebels took part in the polls.
Rajapaksa, who was re-elected as president for a six-year term with 58 per cent of the vote, has the edge in ensuring his party returns to power.
Over 7,600 candidates are vying to enter the 225-seat parliament for a six-year term.
The government has put 83,000 police and army personnel on election duty amidst a series of violent incidents.
In the run-up to the poll over 350 incidents were reported to the police, including one election-related death.
More than 19,000 independent election monitors have been deployed. However, they do not have the legal power to prevent malpractices.
The main opposition has accused the government of misusing state vehicles, the state media and officials for the ruling partys campaign.
Opposition parties have claimed that some of their polling agents were prevented from reaching the stations in Central Province and North-Western Province. More incidents of cases of intimidation and preventing voters from voting have been reported in provinces.
Vote counting is due to start on Thursday night with the initial results released after midnight, election officials said.
The final counts are to be made public by Friday midday, and the names of the elected representatives by Saturday.
© Monsters and Critics
Thursday, April 08, 2010
1000’s of IDP voters have been denied their right to vote due to the non existence of clearly defined guidelines in relation to voter identification papers. CaFFE elections observers were temporarily stopped by security officers from taking photographic evidence of these incidents as they unfolded in the close vicinity of Menik Farm.
These IDP voters in Menik Farm were told that they must go to the Killinochchi Cluster Polling Station to vote by Election Officials. However, voters in the Killinochchi Cluster Polling station have informed by Election Officials that they must proceed to the Menik Farm Polling Station to vote. Election Official have not been given clear instructions to IDP’s in relation to where they can vote. IDP’s were thus thrown into confusion as to whether they were to vote in Menik Farm, Killinochchi cluster polling centers, their original place of residence or in the areas where they have been newly resettled.
Evidence of this can be further identified by the registered low voter turnout by 12.00 noon. In the Killinochchi Central College Cluster Polling Centers only 362 out of 7,504 total registered voters have been able to cast their votes in the first set of 8 cluster polling stations. Furthermore, in the second set of 8 cluster polling centers only 283 out of 10,240 voters have been able to cast their votes by 12.00 noon.
While IDP voters have been denied their right to vote in the Menik Farm Polling Center supporters of former Minister Rishard Badurdeen have been visually identified by CaFFE Election observers conducting an election campaign on election day at the Menik Farm IDP Camp, Vavuniya. CaFFE notes that there has been an incident of election violence committed against a CaFFE election observer.
CaFFE observers have visually identified that former Minister Athaulla’s supporters have attacked CaFFe Election Observer Mr. Abdul Rahman in the vicinity of the
Adalachenei and Akkaraipaththu border. The Minister’s supporters have then confiscated CaFFE’s election monitoring evidence and the National Identification papers of the CaFFE election observer.
© Campaign for Free and Fair Elections - Media Release
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Jamila Najmuddin and Sumaiya Rizwi - Several incidents of election violence have been reported islandwide since polling began this morning, including a shooting incident in Galle where several houses and a vehicle were damaged, election observers told Daily Mirror online.
PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told Daily Mirror online that the shooting incident had been a result of inter party violence and a vehicle had also been damaged in the shooting.
Meanwhile a complaint has also been lodged against a UPFA candidate for holding an illegal rally opposite a polling booth in Badulla, a short while ago.
Hettiarachchi said that the candidate had gathered his supporters and had started a meeting in front of the booth.
In other incidents, polling agents from the UNP had been chased away from the booths at the Anamaduwa Walapanawa Vidyalaya and Madawakkulama booth in Galle Hettiarachchi said.
A polling agent of the Democratic National Allaince (DNA) was also chased away by a UPFA supporter on his way to take over duties at a polling booth in Dompe today morning.
In Gampaha, a polling agent from the JVP was chased away from assuming his duties at the polling booth.
Meanwhile, the CMEV reported incidents of discrepancies relating to the order given by the Elections Commissioner to mark the ring finger for the purpose of voting.
The CMEV said that despite the Elections Chief clearly stating that the ring finger should be marked after casting votes, several polling agents had marked the index finger of the voters.
Meanwhile illegal propaganda text messages have been circulated from candidates today in violation to the Election laws, Advisor to the Elections Commissioner Bandula Kulathunga said.
“These candidates send these illegal text messages without fear because they have the powerful backing of certain people,” Kulathunga said. The telephone companies should know that they are engaging in an illegal activity and they will also be found guilty, he said.
“Last night the state media was telecasting a pirith ceremony and showed candidates also participating in it. This is illegal and is also a violation of the election laws,” Kulathunga added.
© Daily Mirror Online
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Around 11:00 a.m Thursday only 4.29% persons eligible to vote had cast their votes in Jaffna while after 2:00 p.m there was a slight increase. However, only 10% of the total registered voters had cast their votes in Jaffna electorate by afternoon, Jaffna Secretariat officials said. People were seen disinterested in the parliamentary election and the general atmosphere in the peninsula was peaceful without any considerable election violence, sources in Jaffna said.
Meanwhile, Minister Rizad Badudeen’s supporters in Vavuniyaa had taken away the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses meant to transport voters from the detention centres in Vavuniyaa to Ki’linochchi and Mullaiththeevu district preventing them from voting. They had also obstructed Vavuniyaa Secretariat officials who tried to arrange private vehicles, sources in Vavuniyaa said.
Even the small number of Vanni uprooted persons in the detention centres taken to vote in vehicles they found to their dismay that they had been taken to the wrong polling centres instead of the centres where they were supposed to vote.
The above voters for whom arrangement was made to vote in Nedungkea’ni. Odduchchuddaan and Ki’linochchi could not cast their votes.
© Tamil Net
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Gandhya Senanayake - The United National Party claims that that the General Elections conducted today was not free and fair and they will hold discussions and consider calling for a re-poll in certain places.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayaka told Daily Mirror online that there were several reports of voter intimidation, chasing away of polling agents from the opposition parties and some agents being abused which is why the polls were not free and fair.
“This has not been a fair poll. We will hold discussions soon to decide on what steps should be taken,” Attanayaka said.
He confirmed that according to reports received by the UNP, voter turn out had been low islandwide and said the public was “sick” of so many elections declared by the government. “This government has held too many elections which is why people are now fed up,” Attanayaka said.
Meanwhile a high ranking official from the Elections Department confirmed to Daily Mirror online that several incidents of opposition polling agents being chased away had been reported since voting began this morning. He said some agents had also not reported for work.
© Daily Mirror
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Voting began on a slow note Thursday for the first parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka.
Officials at the Department of Elections said in the first five hours of voting Thursday -- with more than 11,000 polling booths countrywide -- only 15 to 20 per cent of 4 million registered voters had turned up. Polling was scheduled to close at 4:30 p.m. (7 a.m. ET Thursday), paving the way for counting to begin.
The parliamentary election is the first in Sri Lanka since the ruling since the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa militarily defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May of last year, ending a three-decades-long separatist insurgency.
A total of 7,620 candidates from 36 political parties and 301 independents are vying for places in the 225-seat parliament.
With four hours left to go in polling, turnout had picked up somewhat but was not exceeding 30 percent countrywide.
Voters will elect 196 members, while the remaining 29 will come from "national lists" provided by contesting parties on the basis of percentages they will win.
The main contenders are Rajapaksa's UPFA and the main opposition United National Front (UNF) of Ranil Wickremasinghe. The third opposition group is led by former Army commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka together with the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, or People's Liberation Front). Though now in custody at an annex in Navy Headquarters in Colombo, Fonseka, who is the head of the new Democratic National Alliance (DNA), is running as a candidate.
Given his victory at the presidential elections in January, political observers say Rajapaksa's UPFA will win a comfortable victory at the parliamentary polls. The final results are expected to be known by Friday afternoon. Thereafter, he is expected to swear in a new cabinet of ministers.
Besides 55,000 policemen, the Government has deployed 20,000 troops to provide security to polling booths and counting centers. They also are patrolling strategic locations around those areas.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By C. Bryson Hull (Reuters) - Sri Lankans on Thursday vote in the first parliamentary election since the end of a quarter-century war last year, in a poll likely to further entrench President Mahinda Rajapaksa's political dominance.
Nearly 80,000 police and soldiers have been deployed across the Indian Ocean island to guard polling stations, where voters will decide who from among 7,620 candidates will serve in the 225-member parliament.
Rajapaksa has already parlayed last May's victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists into a new six-year term, and is now banking on a resurgent economy and political momentum to give his United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) a legislative majority.
More than 14 million people were registered to vote at polling stations s that open at 7 a.m.. Campaigning has been calm by Sri Lankan standards, with one death and 340 violent acts reported.
The end of the electoral uncertainty is expected to bring some stability to Sri Lanka's post-war landscape, and give way to a clearer picture of what Rajapaksa plans to do with a $42 billion economy billed as an upcoming frontier market.
The central bank this week reported GDP growth of 3.5 percent last year, and forecast 6.5 percent this year.
Rajapaksa's alliance has positioned itself as the shepherd of island-wide development and an economic revival, propelled by a stock market that has gained more than 150 percent since 2009 and foreign investment in government securities.
With the rupee currency on the rise, bond dealers say they expect steady foreign demand for government securities of 18 months' tenure or less to pick up, especially after the vote.
PRESIDENT SEEKS 2/3 MAJORITY
Rajapaksa and his allies are aiming to win 150 seats, or the two-thirds majority he needs to change the constitution -- though he has not made public his intended amendments.
The opposition has vowed to block that, saying it would threaten democracy by giving him even more vast powers than he now has.
Rajapaksa, 64, in January polled 58 percent against 40 percent for retired General Sarath Fonseka, his former war ally whom the opposition backed after he split with the president.
Fonseka after the election said the government had robbed him of victory, although monitors said there was no evidence of that. He was later arrested after being accused of plotting a coup.
Though still in military custody facing two courts-martial for politicking in uniform and improper procurement, Fonseka is running for parliament and remains an opposition rallying cry.
He denies wrongdoing and says he is a political prisoner.
One national issue that has taken a subordinate role in campaigns has been ethnic reconciliation.
The war deeply divided the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority from which Rajapaksa hails, like all of the country's leaders since independence from Britain in 1948.
Tamil parties have been able to campaign unhindered for the first time since the end of the war, now that the Tigers are no longer there to dictate who runs.
Rajapaksa says economic development and democracy in all areas are the solution.
However opposition parties say that rings hollow because Rajapaksa's administration stifles dissent and the media. The government denies that and accuses the opposition of currying favor with Western governments that want to undermine Sri Lanka.
Rights group and Western governments say the government has been involved with, or turned a blind eye to, rights violations against critics including kidnapping, arrests and even killings.
© The Washington Post
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Amal Jayasinghe - South Asia is no stranger to political dynasties, and Thursday's parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka could mark President Mahinda Rajapakse's first step in securing a legacy for his own "first family".
Rajapakse, 64, has campaigned for his eldest son, Namal, who is contesting the election in the family's home constituency of Hambantota in the island's southern Sinhalese heartland.
Namal, who will be 24 on Sunday, has no qualms about promoting himself as an ideological successor to his father, whose personal popularity following victory over Tamil rebels last year is expected to ensure a resounding poll win for his ruling Freedom Alliance party.
"I want to protect for future generations the freedom won by my father," Namal says on his website, which notes that he hails from "a notable political family."
The president rounded off campaigning on Monday by addressing a rally for Namal, and images of the smiling father-son duo have been prominent in local newspapers and television.
In the past five years, Namal, the eldest of three sons, has been groomed for political leadership, and was made the head of a national youth movement which has a strong network in rural areas.
Several other Rajapakse family members are contesting Thursday's vote, including the president's younger brother Basil, older brother Chamal, who is aviation minister, and his niece, Nirupama.
Austin Fernando, a retired defence secretary-turned-political analyst and author, said Sri Lankan society was generally open to the idea of dynastic politics.
"Since independence from Britain in 1948, most of our leaders have tried to ensure a family line of succession," Fernando said. "Some have had more success than others."
"People anticipate that Namal will one day be the leader of the country," he added.
Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, a nephew of Sri Lanka's first executive president, the late Junius Jayewardene, believes Rajapakse has taken nepotism to extremes.
"Earlier it was Rajapakse brothers' company, now it is Rajapakse and family which is ruling the country," Wickremesinghe said.
The prime minister and speaker of the outgoing parliament also have children contesting the elections, but their political roots are nowhere near as deep as those of the Rajapakses.
Sri Lanka's well-known Bandaranaike dynasty, which is often compared to the Nehru-Gandhi family in India and the Bhuttos of Pakistan, came to an abrupt end in 2005 when Chandrika Kumaratunga stepped down as president after nine years in power.
"Chandrika would have liked to have her son take over from her, but she failed because he was probably too young and there was no time to groom him," Fernando said.
Kumaratanga's father and mother, Solomon and Sirima Bandaranaike, had both been prime ministers and her brother was a speaker of parliament and a minister.
When Kumaratunga became president in 1994, she turned the normal course of dynastic politics on its head by appointing her mother prime minister again -- making them the world's first mother-daughter combination to rule a country.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Biswadip Mitra - Look at this man in vest. This is Akon... the Senegalese-born singer, if you call him a singer at all. Watch his videos and you’ll see ‘hot’ girls all over him. They’re enough to cover-up the pathetic lyrics of his songs, idiotic tunes and above all, Akon’s miserable voice. I often doubt whether his so-called fans are actually his fans or of those sexy chicks.
Well.. well... Sexy Chick is one of Akon’s songs. Actually, he’s a guest vocalist in that track written and produced by Frenchman David Guetta. Still, it’s got Akon there. That’s enough to get the chicks dance like hungry lizards. Yeah... that’s a bad comparison. Forget it. But have you watched the video? I have... Akon as usual with the girls. The setting, as I understood, is that of a ‘pool party’ that’s gone raunchy and where Akon lords like a priest.
So what does Akon preach? What else, but ‘love’. Take that word in every possible way — hip shaking, scanning, frisking, smelling, hugging, rubbing, swimming... it’s exciting to be an Akonian. One can make the full use of the special hormones — adrenaline, testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone and the rest. You know what I mean.
Does Akon preach ‘peace’? He might believe in the saying ‘Make love, not war’, but folks in Sri Lanka think otherwise. There are recent reports of violent protests in that island nation over Sexy Chick. The problem began when some keen viewers noticed a white statue of Lord Buddha that’s visible for about three seconds across the video’s frames. Akon is then mostly busy with the girls in swimsuits who are doing their best to heat up the ambience. And this infuriated the Sri Lankans who are predominantly Buddhists. As a result, Akon’s show on 20th April in that country has been cancelled; he hasn’t been granted a visa. And his chicks certainly won’t like to face the peace-loving stone-throwers. That ain’t sexy at all.
We know that this is just one of the many incidents of violence in the name of ‘faith’ and ‘pride’. In due time, people will forget about this one too. Akon has apologised and told the world about his spirituality. He will possibly perform in Sri Lanka at a future date. But isn’t it bad that the benign Buddha is made to look vulnerable by his followers because of few crass performers? Why are we all so insecure about the strength of our faiths?
As you know, Philip Pullman’s recent book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, tells us about Christ, the manipulative twin brother of Jesus. In the story, it is Christ who betrays Jesus and turns him to the authorities. Pullman has cited four Gospels as his sources. Certainly it will ruffle many ‘right’ feathers who were already antagonised by Pullman’s earlier trilogy His Dark Materials. But can the new book or any such book shake a devout Christian’s faith in Jesus?
I believe, no ‘faith’ can be so fragile that a stupid video or some foolish cartoons or some banal paintings by an over-hyped artist will destroy it. I agree that if our sensibilities are really hurt, we can protest. But that’s not through violence. It is one thing to be strong and upright, and another thing to force others to respect our values. ‘Respect’ under duress is a lie. ‘Respect’ has to come from within.
I think, the problem lies in our inability to comprehend the tenets enshrined in our respective faiths. But we are too eager to cover-up our failings; we are keen to show off our commitment to our faiths. So we resort to violence and other gimmicks. That way, we are far far worse than Akon. Yet, some of the worst among us are often hailed as the champions of ‘faith’ and ‘pride’, when in reality they are self-serving individuals. We disrespect our ‘faith’ and ourselves when we fall prey to their falsehood.
© Sakaal Times
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Sri Lankan election monitoring institutions claimed on Wednesday that although the parliamentary election propaganda period ended midnight on Monday and the election will be held on Thursday, some candidates including those of the ruling coalition and opposition alliance are still engaged in propaganda activities.
Rohana Hettiarachchi, executive director of the People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) told reporters that they have observed some candidates still holding their propaganda rallies using loudspeakers in public places strongly violating the election law.
"The main reason for illegal publicity is the battle for the preferential votes," Hettiarachchi said, adding that police officers are helpless because of the political power of such candidates.
Sri Lanka has an Elections System of Proportional Representation (PR) by which the candidates who obtain the majority of preferential votes are elected to parliament.
Hettiarachchi said candidates of the same party clashed each other several times during the election propaganda period due to the battle for preferential votes.
About 72 persons have been hospitalized so far due to election violence, he said, adding that 51 of them got injuries due to clashes among same party candidates and supporters.
"We requested candidates to honor election laws and remove their posters and cutouts and cancel the meeting at least today, but our officers countrywide reported that some candidates are running their campaigns even today," Hettiarachchi said.
He added they had observed about 279 election violence incidents by Tuesday including one death in Kurunegala, about 100 km northwest from the capital Colombo.
Keerthi Tennakoon, director of the Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE) requested the government to allow them to enter the counting centers because of malpractices allegedly taking place in the process of counting in the presidential election held in January.
Election officials said they have allowed election monitors to enter the results declaration centers.
Susil Premajayantha, general secretary of the ruling coalition United People's Freedom Alliance said all of their candidates have been asked to stop election propaganda activities and honor election laws.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa dissolved the island's parliament in February and the new 225-member legislature is scheduled to hold its first session on April 22.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa hopes his governing coalition will score a clear victory in Thursday's legislative elections. He also hopes two of his brothers, his cousin and his eldest son, Namal, will win or regain places in parliament. The BBC's Charles Haviland reports from the Rajapaksa heartland in Southern Province.
By a huge banyan tree in the town of Tangalle, Namal Rajapaksa is meeting the people outside the family home.
A crowd clusters around the 23-year-old candidate and presidential son. Each person seems anxious to tell him their problem. They clutch school admission certificates and town council documents.
Namal is young but is already being groomed for great political things.
"I've come to Namal for help in rebuilding our temple which was ruined by the tsunami," says an orange-robed Buddhist monk. "Namal seems to do a lot for the people."
A woman holds her young disabled boy in her arms. She needs funds to treat him.
"He can't speak or walk. I felt Namal would help us because he loves kids. I'm confident he will help me."
One armed soldier is on the parapet just above. Namal, however, listens to the people, promises action - and nuzzles the babies' cheeks.
The Rajapaksas are Sri Lanka's first family. There have been other political families in this subcontinent, and this country - including the Bandaranaikes, who supplied two prime ministers and a president.
But the Rajapaksas' involvement in politics is especially broad. The President, Mahinda, has three of his brothers in top positions.
Among the Sinhalese majority, Mahinda and the defence secretary, Gotabhaya, are highly popular for last year's military victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists.
That popularity has been only slightly dented by the government locking up the former army chief and losing presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka.
Just outside Tangalle, near a wild and beautiful beach, I meet Kumarini Wickramasuriya.
Her charity for disabled people is in the same building where the president first had an office as a 24-year-old MP. She has known the Rajapaksas for years.
"They are very stable, very people-friendly and approachable and work at grassroot level," she says. "I think Namal also has those qualities in him. And we hope that he will be able to mingle with the people. We see that happening."
Driving in the rain through this lush countryside, almost entirely Sinhalese-inhabited, I see Rajapaksa posters everywhere. There are huge images of Namal. There are also his genially smiling uncle, Chamal, and a cousin, Nirupama - both also candidates here.
There are cardboard cut-outs of the president, 10 metres tall, pointing towards pictures of his son as if to say "this is the man of the future".
In a glade we meet politicians from the main opposition United National Party. They are hard to find, their posters few.
One, Dilip Wedaarachchi, says they have had difficulty campaigning and that the police have sided entirely with the president's family. He calls Mr Rajapaksa a "dictator".
"The family is trying to rule this [part of southern Sri Lanka] - his wife, brother, sons, aunties, everyone is trying to rule this place," he said.
"They're not leaving room for others to come forward and rule the country."
Another is Sajith Premadasa whose father, Ranasinghe, was Sri Lanka's president and was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers.
He is measured in his remarks, stressing that most of the Rajapaksas are popularly elected.
"Of course there is a monopolisation and a concentration of power in the hands of a few at this present juncture," he says.
"People should realise that and recognise that."
Recently, state television showed a huge music and dance extravaganza in Colombo, with the Rajapaksa brothers and their families in the front row for an event laid on entirely to heap praise on Mahinda and Gotabhaya.
A famous woman singer performed a song billed as a lullaby which a century from now would be sung by mothers to their babies, explaining how "King Mihindu" (a nickname) saved their country from terrorists.
"Long live our king who overcame all the challenges from within and abroad," ran another song as incense wafted around.
This kind of trend prompts sharply differing reactions.
One man said the president wanted to "be the king in the country for the rest of his life. By doing that he has let down everybody else in the country".
Another described the Rajapaksa family as "heroes" for bringing peace.
"I don't agree with the fact that our people treat them like kings, but it's just the nature of Sri Lankans to put them on a pedestal."
Back in Tangalle, Namal Rajapaksa finishes his street meetings and warmly invites us into his home. There are no security checks on us and we sit in the hallway for a chat. He denies being part of yet another typical South Asian political dynasty.
"This is the 21st Century," he says. "People are more educated now. I don't think family politics will play a role. As long as you work, you be with the people… you love the country, you will be elected.
"It's a matter of who you are, not what you are."
We are ushered in for an audience with the president himself, who is sitting in a small study. He is completely informal. We chat, though largely off-the-record. He does not look at his watch.
Namal Rajapaksa tells us he is still referred to as Mahinda Rajapaksa's son. But he hopes Mahinda will one day be known as Namal Rajapaksa's father.
The 23-year-old politician with the common touch clearly wants to go far.
© BBC News
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Chakravarthy - Fathima Rifqa Bary who is 17 years was born on 10th of August 1993 to Ayesha Rizana and Mohamed Barry of Galle, Sri Lanka. The family is traditionally gem and jewelry merchants with respect in the Southern Province and Colombo.
As a kid she injured her right eye with the toy she was playing with. Since a major surgery was required, the couple opted to do it in the United States. So they came to the US in 2000.
Rifqa was under good medical care in the States and gained vision to some extend wearing spectacle which she no more wears now but apparently there is a significant difference between the left and the right eyes which she tactfully covers with her long hair. That way she is not innocent, but good at to cover that should be covered.
A thin, timid, shy girl she was, and always seen with a book in her hand as a book worm. Even now at 17 years she looks like a 12 year old Asian girl, leaving alone the American size. Ten years study in the US has made her fluent in English with perfect American accent like a local kid.
Initially the family lived in Queens, New York. Their life in the US was not on a bed of roses. Her father’s jewelery business, Bary Gems, that remained under license in the State of New York and imported gems from Sri Lanka, had ups and downs.
Further 9/11 attack also restricted his movement within the States. He uses a second hand hacked car where as his suppliers in Sri Lanka run in vehicles costing six or seven figures in US money.
Bary made an unsubstantiated claim that he was once stopped and searched while boarding a flight and the result was a loss of US$ 400,000 worth of gems and jewellery. From Queens they moved to New Albany in Ohio where all these complications took place.
Rifqa was seen spending lot of time on internet especially in the night. As usual the Asian mother was not happy and advised her daughter not to be awake in the night but she continued in sly.
It was said she was converted to Christianity in secret when she was 12 years old. Her posting of her new faith on her Facebook page, might have been seen by her friends from her family's mosque and reported to her father Mohamed Bary.
Ayesha started monitoring Rifqa’s movements and one day she found a Christian book in the house while her husband was out of town. She threatened to tell her father. The family was aghast and the trouble started at home.
As a result, Rifqa disappeared from home on July 19, 2009. Her cell phone was turned off and her Facebook account too was deactivated. Parents complained to the police. The girl's friends told detectives that it was possible she ran away because of conflicting religious beliefs in her home.
Investigators said Rifqa was affiliated with two central Ohio churches: one on Cleveland Avenue and the other near the Ohio State University campus. They also said she might have been seen near campus the night she disappeared.
A petition filed by Rifqa’s father in Franklin County Juvenile Court alleged that Brian Williams, a minister drove the girl to the Columbus Greyhound station where she received a bus ticket under a false name, bought by certain "Christian Associates" whom she had met on Facebook, to a "Planned Sanctuary" in Orlando, traveling 1100 miles.
Police used phone and computer records to track her to the Rev. Blake Lorenz, a Pastor of Global Revolution Church, a non-denominational Evangelical church based in Orlando, Florida.
"I am a Christian, and my parents are Muslims. They are extremely devout." . "They threatened to kill me. … You guys wouldn't understand. Islam is very different than you guys think. They have to kill me. My blood is now halal, which means that because I am now a Christian, I'm from a Muslim background, it's an honor. If they love God more than me, they have to do this. I'm fighting for my life. ..."
Rifqa said that in the 150 generations of her family, no one has ever known Jesus. "I am the first one," "Imagine the honor in killing me. "It is the reality” she screamed “it is the reality” to a TV in perfect American English with a sweet voice, and a silver cross tangling from her neck.
Bary denied the girl's claim. “Honestly,” said he, “we didn’t know why she left. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, I want her to come back home. I love my daughter whether she’s a Christian or anything else. I want my daughter back.”
Aysha Bary who runs a business of sewing bridal veils in her home, filed papers with the Florida court declaring herself and her husband to be indigent. She made a statement to the court, crying "I have my two sons, but I need my daughter back!" Although her daughter professed her love for her parents in court, she refused to go with them.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found no credible threats to the girl. Her use of Facebook was one issue that led to this situation.
Mohamed Bary is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident but he said he is fighting for his residency. For Rifqa to continue her stay in the US she needs paper from her parents or else she should opt for nuptial with a national and regularize her stay. Her closeness in photo with Tayee Adrian of Xenos Cult is also puzzling.
Now Rifqa is under the custody of county children‘s service in Ohio. The family is saddled with never ending court cases from state to state that hit the news as a national story with both political undertones fanned by religious interest.
While the Muslim community supported Bary, his daughter got very favorable response from the Christian community throughout the USA and many associations came forward to help her. Rifqa Bary Support Group - on face book with 9,000 members is a notable power. Protests before the courts became common, saying it is one‘s civil right to chose her/his own religion.
It is true but there are lots of gray areas in Rifqa’s conversion. First of all, can a 12 year old understand the merits and demerits of a new religion or old religion without any inducement?
As Rifqa pronounces the word God God every minute like a Christian preacher, and enjoys the ‘celebrity status’ by giving interviews to media laughing and crying, I am sure the Bary’s who came to the US for eye care to their daughter who is now callous and not caring about the parents, will one day return to Sri Lanka sobbing and leaving their apple of the eye behind in America.
No doubt the notoriety Rifqa’s case jolted the first generation immigrant Muslims in the North America and Europe.
An American in a web wrote, ‘if Rifqa’s case happened to be a Mary becoming Mariyam, the Mosque she got associated would have been raided and the people who gave shelter got arrested as extremists or terrorists‘. Is not that too a reality Rifqa?
In the mean time in Sri Lanka, a convert from Buddhism to Islam, Panadura born Sarah Malani Perera’s “anti state” activity has surfaced in the media with mute response from Muslim community, unlike Rifqa’s from the Christians.
It was said the manager of the courier services was the cause for her arrest. Is not it a breach of ethic by the commercial organization to intercept any articles that are not declared as contraband by the state? Yes it is.
How could the courier man deem it as a blasphemy without reading it? Under what authority he acted? If I receive a love letter from my girl friend, does the postman have any right to report it to my father?
38 year old Sarah Malani went to Manama, Bahrain in 1985 to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gifts and flowers shop called Madhuri in The Palace hotel, Adliya. Later she worked as a teacher at the Child Development Centre, Juffair.
Out of interest, like foreigners do in a host country, especially in Arab countries, she spent time on reading about Islam and the Arab culture before joining ’Discover Islam’.
Subsequently she embraced Islam in 1999 at the age of 27, unlike Rifqa to Christianity at 12. Her father Norbet Perera, mother Soma and sisters Padma, Rasa, and Padmani were also converted to Islam at different times.
Mariam said that police forcibly removed Malani’s headscarf and made a video, which was played on all Sri Lankan television channels. "They were so cruel to her“.
After 11 days of custody, police allowed Sarah to speak to her mother for five minutes.
“My mother has stopped eating since she spoke to Sarah and we are worried about her health as she is 82."
"My mother is very close to Sarah and is crying for her and praying for her immediate release," said Mariam. She revealed that the family had already paid Sri Lankan rupees 90,000 to lawyers.
On the other hand, family members do also fear that Sarah may face some obstacles in Sri Lanka to return to Bahrain since her residence permit expired on March 24.
"From Darkness to Light” is a common title every religious cross over uses to defend his/her choice. Rifqa also tells the same.
As the initial charges against Malani looked insignificant, now the jaundiced eyed state says she is being investigated for possible links to Islamic extremists. When will Lanka stop telling unbelievable lies?
Which Islamic extremist organization is against Sri Lanka? None. Not even the Taliban that destroyed the Budhha statues of the Bamyan valley in 2001.
But under the emergency law, this is an escape route for a dictatorial state to justify its atrocity against anyone who irks its interest. Arrest first and charge later, is the Mantra here. That has been the position in Sarath Fonseka’s matter too. He is not tried for the charges made out to him.
In a country that is trying to ban religious conversion especially from the Buddhism, arresting Sarah Malani Perera, a Sinhalese with a head scarf in Islamic attire, must have been a God sent opportunity to affirm the government’s affinity as the guardian of Buddhist superiority in the island during the general election.
Well, from the biggest religion of the world - Christianity, today few turn to Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Under the colonial rule in Asia, Hindus and Buddhists, large number Sri Lankans, adopted to follow Jesus due to circumstance or to appease the masters. Even today many ardent Lankan Buddhists cherish to maintain their Christian names.
Apple Computer boss Steve Job [have you bought the iPad ?] says he is a vegetarian and Buddhist. But he denied paternity to a girl child for many years, saying he was sterile before accepting it finally. He forgot the fact that he was a child of two unwed University students.Is this Buddhism?
Golf champion Tiger Woods said his failure to follow Buddhist principles was the cause for his sex scandals. His mother was a Bangkok bar girl who his father befriended as a soldier in Vietnam War. Was her life based on Buddha’s teaching?
In the US, a documentary film, The Buddha by award winning David Grubin is to be released on April 7th. The intention is good but we do not know how the fanatics of Sri Lanka will react when it is released there. Interestingly the narration is done by a poet named W.S. Merwin and Holiness the Dalai Lama who the guardian of Buddhism Sri Lankan government, do not permit to visit in fear of China. Here politics overshadows religion.
When Malani’s case is concerned, Shaikh Essam Ishaq, Discover Islam’s Sharia adviser and director, said some of Bahrain's MPs were in talks with the Sri Lankan government trying to negotiate Sarah’s release. "They are optimistic something positive would happen and they would release her soon," he said.
A belief is she may be freed after 8th April with “no evidence”. But what is the cost for the agony she underwent? On the contrary, if it takes a different turn then the response from the Arab world will become hostile and the Friend of the Palestinian image alone would not pacify.
Finally, why did not any Muslim lawyer came forward to help Sarah while in the US there are so many for Rifqa?
Thursday, April 08, 2010
By Yohan Perera - Monks who were abducted while on a death fast in front of the Colombo Fort Railway Station calling for the release of General Sarath Fonseka earlier this week lodged a complaint at the Human Rights Commission yesterday against IGP Mahinda Balasuriya and several other officers at tached to Fort and Compannaveediya police stations
Ven Lunugamvehera Kalyanaransi Thera, the Convener of the people’s forum for redemption of General Fonseka, who was among the monks engaged in the death fast said a complaint was lodged with the commission as the police officers have used abusive language on them when they were arrested on Monday.
He said they were dragged by some group in civvies while the police looked on.
The Ven. Thera alleged that the Government had committed a grave sin by harassing Buddhist monks.
He said the monks together with other peace loving people will continue the struggle to get General (Fonseka) freed from detention. “We are prepared to lay down our lives to get this national hero freed,” he said.
The complaint which the monks lodged with the Human Rights Commission said they were forcibly abducted by a group in civvies and the police assisted them to do so.
The monks argued that the arrest should have been made under Section 13(1) of the Constitution. The reason for arrest should be explained to a suspect before he is arrested according to this law.
“This was violated as no explanation was given to us because they violently pulled us and pushed us into a bus,” the monks said
The monks therefore demanded compensation from the IGP and the other police officers who were involved in the case.
Four monks including Ven Kalyanaransi Thera, Ven Attanayake Vijitha Thera, Ven Dunagala Panyasara Thera and Ven Wakamulle Udiththa Thera were engaged in a death fast calling for the release of General Fonseka earlier this week.
© Daily Mirror
Thursday, April 08, 2010
On the eve of Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections, the main opposition accused the ruling party Wednesday of campaign abuses and said it did not expect polling to be free and fair.
The opposition United National Party (UNP) said President Mahinda Rajapakse's administration had used state-owned vehicles and buildings for campaigning and turned the government-run media into a party mouthpiece.
"There was a suppression of private media. Journalists were attacked and abducted by those connected to the government," UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo. "Editors were arrested and intimidated."
He said the state-run media had carried out biased reporting to favour Rajapakse's United People's Freedom Alliance.
"Some people feel that there is no point in voting Thursday because their votes will not make a difference due to rigging," Wickremesinghe said. "We appeal to the people to go and vote. Please. There is an opportunity to change the government."
He accused the police of failing to implement election laws and favouring ruling party candidates, a charge already denied by the authorities.
Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has gone on record as saying the police and public servants had ignored some of his directives to ensure a fair poll.
Political observers expect the president's party to secure an easy majority on Thursday, following his resounding victory over the combined opposition candidate at the January 26 presidential polls.
The opposition is challenging Rajapakse's re-election in the Supreme Court.
District officials said most of the 100,000 public servants conducting the vote began fanning out to 11,000 polling booths across the country on Wednesday.
Military officials said nearly 20,000 troops had been called to reinforce police security on Thursday, which marks the first parliamentary polls since last year's defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.
A total of 7,620 candidates from 36 political parties and 10 independent groups are in the running for the 225 seats up for grabs under a proportional representation system.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Sri Lanka's legislative polls Thursday will decide the depth of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's already vast powers and should remove the last big uncertainty for investors keen to tap the country's post-war potential.
With his victory in one of Asia's longest-running wars not quite a year old, Rajapaksa and his ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) are expected to win a majority in the polls to elect the 225-member parliament.]
A total of 7,620 candidates representing 36 parties and 301 independent groups are competing.
Unaccustomed to losing since he was first elected president in 2005, Rajapaksa and his allies are aiming to win 150 seats, or the two-thirds majority he needs to change the constitution to his whim -- though he has not made public his intentions.
The opposition has vowed to stop him, saying he has too much power already with a normal legislative majority.
More than 14 million voters are registered to cast ballots, with nearly 80,000 police and soldiers standing watch. By Sri Lankan standards, the campaign has been relatively calm with at least 340 acts of violence and one death.
"This government has done the work to get a two-thirds majority. Development work, the economy, they have ended the 30-year-old war. This country has progressed by doing these things," trader H.M. Sudath told Reuters.
Popularity stemming from the defeat of the Tamil Tigers separatists in May last year helped propel Rajapaksa to a second six-year term in January, when he won a landslide 58 percent over retired General Sarath Fonseka in a bitter and personal contest.
"You have the government contesting with a great deal of confidence. The opposition seems to be divided and demoralized," University of Colombo constitutional affairs lecturer Rohan Edirisinghe told Reuters.
Fonseka, who as army commander stood side-by-side with Rajapaksa in the war victory, is running for parliament despite being in military custody and facing two courts-martial, for politicking while in uniform and improper procurement.
He polled 40 percent on election day in January, the day after which he found himself surrounded in a luxury Colombo hotel by elite troops he had commanded a few months previously, with the government saying it was feared he was planning a coup.
The main opposition parties have rallied behind him, although they are not contesting as single alliance as they did in the presidential election.
Rajapaksa and his allies have also trumpeted about a resurgent post-war economy, propelled by a stock market that has gained more than 150 percent since 2009, accelerated development and foreign investment in government securities.
However, the end of the war did not bring immediate stability because Rajapaksa made clear he would call early elections, and Western countries and the United Nations have kept up pressure over possible war crimes and human rights violations.
"Foreign investors might get more interested in the stock market if there is political stability after the election. But otherwise, I do not see any changes," Amal Sandaratne, economist at Frontier Research, told Reuters.
With the rupee currency on the rise, bond dealers say they expect steady foreign demand for government securities of 18 months' tenure or less to pick up, especially after the vote.
One concern foreign investors have always had is the government's big public sector spending, which has often hampered growth. The central bank reported GDP growth of 3.5 percent last year, and forecast 6.5 percent this year.
"If the ruling party comes to power then there will be stability, but still it is not clear what economic ideologies they are going to implement," said Sirimal Abeyratne, an economics lecturer at the University of Colombo.
The government has pledged to curb its deficit under a $2.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan, but Monday said it would renegotiate the stringent targets after it missed the first year's goal with 9.8 percent deficit last year.
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