Pandemonium reigns in east
despite govt. denial
- reporting from the East
The Provincial Council elections in the east, which commenced
sharp on time at 7.00 am yesterday, was marred with intimidation
All fingers were pointed at government ministers who, according
to eye witnesses and independent poll watchers, had used their
clout with the intention of turning the results of the polls,
Reports reaching from Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara
strongly indicated that government ministers were responsible
for inciting and encouraging violence. Their supporters, who had
been brought to the east in bus loads, had been used to
intimidate voters and stuff ballot boxes as the police watched
the situation helplessly.
Scores of people in this region have been deprived of their
polling cards. Most of the voters in all three districts told
The Nation they did not receive their polling cards.
Many people who had lost their identity cards due to the 2004
tsunami and the subsequent war, were denied access into the
booth to cast their votes in Batticaloa.
Senior officials from the Elections Department in Batticaloa,
however said that despite the absence of polling cards, voters
were allowed to cast their votes after presenting their national
A parcel bomb explosion in Ampara on Friday evening and an
underwater bomb explosion of the cargo ship ‘Invincible’, by the
LTTE in the wee hours of yesterday, triggered fresh tension,
fear and anxiety among the voters.
Besides this, a large number of persons transported into the
east from outside the region, allegedly by the government, was
another cause for much apprehension among the voters in general.
While Election Observers, both local and foreign, told The
Nation that they had not received any official complaints from
any political party regarding violence, local politicians and
activists confirmed that there was state sponsored thuggery
dominating the three districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and
Rev. Fr. Sylvester a local observer and Badrul Isham a foreign
observer (Malaysia) however said they had not heard of any
incidents of violence.
Denied polling cards
The majority of the eligible voters in Vavunathivu, Ariyampathi
and Palamunai in the Batticaloa district and Thiriyaya and
Kilivetti in the Trincomalee district were denied their polling
Until the time the polling commenced yesterday, they were not in
possession of their polling cards.
The main opposition UNP raised its concern with the Elections
Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General Shantha Rajapakse,
to no avail.
Refugees languishing in the Hindu Cultural Hall in Trincomalee,
continued to protest about the failure of the state to issue
them their polling cards.
In Thiriyaya a gang of people led by a government minister,
forcibly entered into a polling booth and stuffed ballot boxes.
Independent election watchers confirmed that this incident took
place in the presence of the police.The people therefore were
not allowed to participate in the election as their polling
cards were snatched away by the men, influenced by the minister.
In Kilivetti the people from the IDP camps had been prevented
from participating in the elections. Men identified as
supporters of the UPFA had prevented them from going to the
polling booths to cast their votes.
In Verugal, unauthorised persons had entered several polling
booths and packed ballot boxes with bogus votes. This was
confirmed by both eye witnesses and poll watchers.
Some poll monitors said they had no powers to prevent this from
happening, but vowed to make a complaint later on. They said the
incidents were taking place in the presence of the law
Meanwhile UNP Member of Parliament John Amaratunga said the UNP
has already brought these incidents to the notice of the
Elections Commissioner and DIG Shantha Rajapakse.
He said so far no action has been taken either to prevent
unauthorised persons entering polling booths or to apprehend
He said this was contrary to the government’s widely publicised
claim that the election would be free and fair.
“I don’t want to mention the names of the ministers who are
blatantly violating all the election laws. It is very
unfortunate in this region,” he said.
He said two days prior to the election, the UNP had warned the
Elections Commissioner and the DIG of possible election
malpractices but no action had been taken.
“We have requested the polling agents to register these
incidents in the complaint books, and also to get the returning
officer to certify it. We will take action after the elections
are over,” the UNP stalwart told The Nation.
On the eve of the election, youths attached to the Hindu
Cultural hall in the Trincomalee Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)
camp, had been whisked away by unidentified men in white vans.
The refugees, staging a protest campaign not to participate in
the election unless the youths were released, had further vowed
to continue their protest.
They said they had to travel to Kilivetti to cast their votes
and added that if the youths who were abducted yesterday and in
the past were not released, they would not participate in the
Reports also indicated that following the sinking of the Navy
supply ship ‘Invincible’ by the LTTE yesterday morning at around
2.15 am, at the Ashroff Jetty in the Trincomalee harbour,
tension prevailed in Trincomalee and the security was tightened.
Reports confirmed that during the time the ship came under
attack by the LTTE, there has been a large stock of arms and
ammunitions – a fact flatly denied by the Sri Lanka Navy.
However, highly placed reliable sources confirmed to The Nation
that the sea waters around the Trincomalee harbour had turned to
blood red, thereby suspecting that this could have been due to
explosives mixing with the sea water.
As the polling started in Batticaloa , there was a commotion in
Aligar Vidyalaya in Palamunai. Men identified as supporters of
UPFA chief candidate M. L. A. M. Hisbullah protested against the
entry of two UNP polling agents into the booth.
Two UNP polling agents M. Nazeer and M. Fazlin had been chased
away without letting them perform their election duty, from
their polling booth number 137.
According to eye witnesses the two UNP candidates had been
assaulted by the UPFA supporters and their note books and other
documents had been grabbed from them.
The thugs thereafter had attacked the residence of Buhari
Jeinullabdeen –a UNPer who contested the March 10 local
government election. Speaking to The Nation Sri Lanka Muslim
Congress (SLMC) chief candidate Basheer Segudawood said
government ministers and members of parliament continued to
mount pressure on the innocent voters, thereby preventing them
from exercising their franchise in a peaceful manner.
However Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Batticaloa, Ananda
Nanayakkara said the police have not yet been officially
informed of any of these incidents mentioned by the local
politicians to the media.
“So far the situation is under control. Of course there are
minor incidents that are common in any election. And we are
immediately sending our petrol to check on them. Otherwise there
are no major incidents,” he said.
Tension in Ampara
The Special Task Force (STF) was accused of escorting a
particular government minister into polling booths – again an
act contrary to the stipulated election laws.
The STF according to sources had escorted a government minister
into a polling booth in Akkaraipattu in the Ampara district.
This situation according to sources had disturbed the voters and
had caused much tension.
In another incident in Kalmunai, also in the Ampara district, a
UPFA candidate had entered a polling booth at the Islamabad
school and had been the cause for an uproar. This has also
intimidated the voters.
Speaking to The Nation SLMC chief candidate from Ampara Hasan
Ali, said the voters were subjected to intimidation and
He said his party has already informed the Elections
Commissioner and the law enforcement authority.
“But so far we do not see anything positive happening.
Harassment continues and the voters are getting scared to
exercise their franchise in a free and fair manner,” he said.
The elite urban population in Batticaloa hinted that they voted
for the United National Party (UNP) while people in the rural
areas, said they voted for the United Peoples Liberation Front (UPFA)
Chandrakanthan Kuhaneson alias Pillaiyan, leader of the Tamil
Makkal Vidudalai Puligal (TMVP) cast his vote in Vipulananda
Maha Vidyalaya, in Valaichenai at around 9.30 am. He was
scheduled to arrive at 7.00 am but due to security reasons his
arrival was delayed.