Election-related violations taking place on a large-scale: CaFFE
Wednesday, 7 January 2015 00:00
Election-related violations are taking place on a large-scale and in an organised manner, while the Election Commissioner is helpless and not in a position to take action, states Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE). “Donation of sil redi took place in almost 17,000 temples in the country. How can a civil servant like the Elections Commissioner stop all such acts? It cannot be done,” asserted CaFFE Executive Director Keerthi Tennakoon, in an interview with the Daily FT.He pointed out that they have never seen this scale of abuse of State property in the history of Sri Lanka.Following are excerpts:Q: The crucial presidential election is just a day away. What are your views about the current situation? A:In this election we have been informed of more than 1,400 incidents. Abuse of State property and distribution of various things such as dry rations, electronic equipment, loan applications, and allowances are our main concerns. We strongly feel these acts by candidates will have a very big impact on the economy. This is violation of a basic election rule, that is an equal level playing field for all candidates. During the last seven days of the campaign we have seen continuous incidence of election violence taking place. Some of them are very serious issues.
Q: Have you brought these issues to the attention of the Election Commissioner? What was his response? A:Whenever we took these issues to the Election Commissioner, he tried his level best to address them and attend to them. But things are happening on such a larger and more organised scale that the Election Commissioner is helpless and not in a position to take action. There are over 17,000 temples in the country. Through all these temples various donations were taking place. Distribution of sil redi and dry rations took place in almost all the temples in the country. How can a civil servant like the Elections Commissioner stop all such acts? It cannot be done.
During this election we saw very senior officials directly engaged in electoral campaigning. Human resources, resources and Government and semi-Government premises were used for campaign activities.
Q: Have you had similar experiences during previous elections? A: Abuse of State property takes place in each and every election. But we haven’t seen this scale of abuse of State property before; never in history of Sri Lanka.
Q: Do you feel the situation will get worse?A:Developments during the last four days were not very healthy for the law and order situation in the country. We saw lawlessness taking place in Aranaganwila, Ratnapura, Kahawatta and Rambukkana. On Tuesday mobs had carried out their operations in Rambukkana for over four hours. That is a very serious situation. Failure of the Police to attend to this issue leaves a very serious question. The situation at present is disturbing and things might worsen.
Q: There is much speculation about military intervention in tomorrow’s election in favour of the incumbent. As an election watchdog, what measures have you taken to prevent such situation? A: This is the first time we are going for a national election after the defeat of the LTTE. We are hopeful that people will have freedom to vote and cast their ballet.