One of the outfits monitoring elections in Sri Lanka, Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has released their first post election reports, after the Southern Provincial Council elections were concluded this (10th October) evening at 04.00 pm.
Southern Province, considered the bastion of Sinhala Buddhist sentiments in Sri Lanka and the hometown of President Rajapaksa who rode to monarchical reverence on the war victory over the Liberation Tigers, defeating them after 30 years of civil war, was expected to ride through South with an extremely popular verdict by the Sinhala polity. Yet the run up to the elections, did not generate such popular flocking around the ruling party candidates, compelling the President himself to tour the length and breadth of his own ancestral district, Hambantota to ensure a resounding victory.
Meanwhile opposition political parties accused the ruling party of numerous violations in stifling opposition elections campaigns, use of State resources and State power.
The report by CaFFE published below, clearly indicates that the main State agencies mandated to conduct a free and fair elections are impotent in doing so. The election victory for the ruling party, which is the probable result expected and would be claimed by the government as a people’s endorsement for its policies, will nevertheless stand challenged as not so, in the face of accusations of total impotency of the law enforcement agencies.
Following is first post election Report by CaFFE – 10 October,
CaFFE observed that there was a low reportage in relation to election violence during the voting process on Election Day in the Southern Provincial Election. This is in stark contrast to the high level of election related violence during the Pre Election period during this Southern Provincial (SPC) Election. The indication that law enforcement officials and institutions were ineffective in curbing this trend during the Pre Election period highlights the dire need for the establishment of an independent Police Commission through the implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.
Having a relatively peaceful Election Day is not in itself an indicator of a free and fair election. A unique feature of this Southern Provincial Election was the violation of election law throughout the electoral process in the pre election period.
This trend in blatantly violating election law for election gains has become normalized in the Sri Lankan election process. During Election Day CaFFE observed this trend becoming prominent by an increase in activity and increased presence shown by candidates and their supporters who were observed by CaFFE monitors to be roaming throughout the Southern Province in vehicle convoys. This is a total violation of election law in Sri Lanka .
Furthermore, CaFFE election monitors observed that leaflets and handbills distributed to people by supporters of candidates in the Hiniduna, Kamburupitiya, Tangalle, Dewinuwara and Benthara Alpitiya areas on Election Day in absolute violation of election law on Election Day.
In another double violation of election law on Election Day and the misuse of state resources CaFFE election monitors observed that voters were being transported to polling booths using state vehicles.
Serious incidents of Election violence were reported from the Akuressa, Dhickwella, Devinuwara, Lunugamvehera and Yakkalamulla areas only.
CaFFE’s Election Day Case list breakdown is as follows:
There were an unusually high number of election law violations on Election Day with a total of 155 separate incidents with election laws being violated 32 times and incidents of illegal propaganda 123 times.
In summary CaFFE concludes that although Election Day was relatively peaceful in comparison to a violent Pre Election period, this high level of violence during the Pre Election period influenced voting patterns and the campaigning activities of opposition parties such as the JVP. Thus it indirectly had an effect on Election Day proceedings. The none establishment of an independent Election Commission due to the none implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution is a major factor in relation to the ineffective protection of election law as another key characteristic of this SPC Election.
The entire SPC election process emphasized the ineffectiveness of the Election Commissioners Department, Police and Law Enforcement Officials, Institutions and other election process stakeholders in holding a free and fair election.
Once again it proved that without implementing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution there cannot be a free and fair election in Sri Lanka .
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE)