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Election Day Is 'Peaceful' – Three incidents of using grenades

( January 8, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) According to Campaign for Free and fair Elections (CaFFE) observations, except for a few incidents of violence and intimidation in the North, Matale, and Akkarepattu, the Election Day was peaceful. Three were three bomb blasts in the North, in Vavuniya and Jaffna.

A grenade attack has been carried out near Sri Lanka School, Nawaladi Junction, Alwai, in Point Pedro to intimidate people from voting. The blast has occurred about 800 metres from the polling station at an abandoned house. People have heard a motorcycle leaving immediately after the blast.

A grenade was thrown into the ground of Kaleimagar Vidyalaya, Nelunkalama, Vavuniya around 2.45 pm by two persons traveling in a motor cycle.

A grenade has been thrown near polling station at Tamil Vidyalaya, Vavuniya. However it has not exploded.

However these were not major incidents which deterred voting.

There were also attempts of intimidation led by several Ministers, including Nishantha Mutuhettigama, Neomal Perera and Wijayamuni de Soyza and regional politicians, including North-Wastern PC member, Jehan Fernando and North-Central Province Chief Minister, SM Ranjith. However these incidents were uncoordinated and did not have a grave impact.

In the last few elections we saw massive violations of laws regarding election propaganda on the Election Day. However CaFFE did not observe this today, there were a number of sporadic violations but there was no aggressive campaigning by the ruling party. 

We believe that the proactive mediation of the Commissioner of Elections in the days leading to the election played a main role in stemming the flow of election law violation. He took a stern approach regarding the behaviour of state media and made the state media institutions to tone down their promotion of President Rajapaksa. For example they had to publicly apologize for airing a rumour that UNP Deputy Leader, MP Sajith Premadasa has crossed over because of the firm approach of the Commissioner.

In addition Police behaved commendably on Election Day and their firm stance led to a peaceful Election Day. CaFFE hopes that the Police will be firm and uphold election laws during the post election period. Holding election rallies and processions is prohibited for 7 days after the election and these rallies often lead to violence.

However it’s worth mention that there was no level playing field during the pre-election period. There was widespread misuse of state property and there were a number of violent incidents. Violence seemed to follow the campaign trail of the common opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena which ultimately led to the death of Mr. Shantha Dodangoda, a UNP supporter who was shot at Kahawatte on January 5 while preparing the election stage of the Common Opposition Candidate, Maithripala Sirisena.

CaFFE received 1517 complaints till 6 am today out of which 196 were incidents of election related violence.

Three instances of post election violence

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has received three complaints of post election violence from Puttalam, Kurunegala and Kadawatha.

UNP polling agent for Kiwla Kanishta Vidyalaya, Madurankuliya, Puttalam, Rohana Anura Kumara was assaulted by men arriving in 15 motorbikes. These are supporters of Anamaduwa Pradesheeya Sabha Janaka Sampath.

UNP MP for Kurunegela, Nalin Bandara’s vehicle was attacked near Wellawarawa School, Bingiriya, Kurunegala. His vehicle, NW PC 3010 was damaged.

Meanwhile RHMP Ranasinghe, who was on his way home after voting at Pushparama temple, Pahala Biyanwala, Kadawatha was assaulted a group travelling with Deputy Minister, Dulip Wijesekara and Biyagama PS Chairman, Ananda Ganepola. Ranasinghe is undergoing treatment at the Accident Ward, Ragama Hospital and he has lodged a complaint at Kadawatha police.

People disfranchised

A number of estate sector workers were disfranchised in Maskeliya and Passara. Plantation companies only allow plantation workers leave for vote only after 12.30 pm and when they arrive at polling centres its close to the end of voting, 4pm. Thus a number of estate workers lost their franchise.

In addition between 1000 and 1500 IDPs in Puttalam were unable to vote as they were not able to reach their polling centres at Mannar. Most of the voters were provided with transport by political parties in previous elections, but the interest shown by political actors was less this time.

Total violations

CaFFE has received 254 complaints in Election Day out of which 86 were impactful. CaFFE also received 18 cases of violence and intimidation. However the impact they made were minimal, even the loud blast in Vavuniya did not deter voters.

In addition although there were rumours that there were preparations for polls rigging in naval bases, these claims were baseless.

The highest amount of complaints was regarding the fact that there were pencils to mark the vote instead of a pen. This was especially prevalent in Gampaha. However after consultation with the Commissioner of Elections CaFFE understood that this was due to a mistake made by some Returning Officers who misunderstood some of the Commissioners instructions. However this will have no impact on the validity of votes.

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