By Skandha Gunasekara
Election monitoring bodies yesterday asserted that the current Local Government election campaign period was the most peaceful in over a decade, attributing the relative calm to the new electoral system.
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told Daily FT that there had been no major issues reported thus far.
“I must say that this campaign period has been very peaceful. No serious incidents or election law violations have been reported. We saw some aggressive campaigning over the last few days but that is because it was the weekend and political parties took advantage of the masses being at home,” Tennakoon said.
He said that only 157 reports of election law violations were received as of yesterday.
“All of these were simple issues that were reported. Nothing major has happened this time. The change of electoral system has reduced election violations and violence. When compared with past elections, particularly considering the fact that some 50,000 candidates are contesting this election, this campaign period has been the most peaceful in over a decade,” Tennakoon added.
Meanwhile, People’s Action For Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi too agreed that the current run-up period to Local Government elections was far more peaceful than elections in the past. “This is the first time in recent history that we are having elections on such a large scale since we usually have staggered elections for Local Governments. Also, this time there are close to 60,000 candidates contesting. So considering these aspects, the number of complaints regarding election law violations and violence are quite good,” Hettiarachchi said, adding that PAFFREL had received 462 election-related complaints up to date.
He went on to note that authorities had carried out their duties in an impartial manner as well.
“We must salute the Government, Elections Commission and the police. The Elections Commission has actively advocated for free and fair elections. This time we haven’t seen the Government influencing the Police in any way and the Police must be commended for carrying out their duties in a professional and impartial manner,” Hettiarachchi said.
Furthermore, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has established a complaints desk to record election-related complaints. HRCSL Commissioner Saliya Perera informed Daily FT that the Complaints Desk was set up on 19 January.
“Free and fair elections are a human right and we felt it was our duty to establish a unit to receive election-related complaints. Once we receive a complaint, we will get in touch with the relevant department, determine the veracity of the complaint and then if necessary report the matter to the Elections Commission,” Perera said.
The HRCSL elections complaints desk can be reached on 077 3088135 or 077 3762112, while fax and emails can be sent to 011 2505574 and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.