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Wednesday, 7 January 2015 00:32 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Local monitoring agency CMEV claims ‘unparalleled’ abuse of State resources during presidential election campaign
  • Raises concerns about alleged military deployment affecting voter turnout in the north

At the press conference from right: CMEV Chief Coordinator D.M. Dissanayake and CMEV Co-Convenor Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu – Pic by Daminda Harsha Perera

By Dharisha Bastians Local election monitors flagged the ‘unparalleled’ abuse of State resources and serious concerns about military deployment affecting voter turnout in the former conflict zones, as campaigning ended for the 2015 presidential election. The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said the abuse of State resources were a phenomenon in all elections in Sri Lanka. “But we have observed the unparalleled use of State resources in this election – it was flagrant,” observed CMEV Co-Coordinator Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who addressed the media yesterday. Dr. Saravanamuttu noted that it had been clear during the campaign that the resources available to the incumbent were much greater than those available to his challenger. The prominent civil society activist told the media that concerns were being expressed to the poll monitoring body by political parties and community leaders in the Northern Province about voter turnout. “There are concerns that military deployment could deter voters. The concerns are that in the guise of security, military deployment could adversely impact voter turnout in the north,” Dr. Saravanamuttu asserted. Responding to a query by journalists as to why the military presence could deter voters in Thursday’s election when it did not in the 2013 provincial council vote in the north, Dr. Saravanamuttu said voter intimidation could cut both ways. “If the general public decide that the best answer to voter intimidation and violence is to go out and exercise the vote, they could vote in greater numbers, as we saw in the Northern PC poll in 2013. On the other hand it could deter voters. So we can’t categorically say it will happen, we can only say that concerns have been raised,” he explained. Issuing the CMEV interim report after campaigning ended at midnight on 5 January, Dr. Saravanamuttu said perpetrators of election violence had hailed from the ruling party and were local politicians. “Overall the incidence of violence was lower than in other elections, but the number of major incidents and the use of firearms has increased,” CMEV Chief Coordinator D.M. Dissanayake told journalists.  

CMEV monitors to deploy in counting centres in North, Matara and Colombo

  With the Elections Commissioner granting monitors permission to observe the count for the first time in the history of Sri Lankan elections on Thursday, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said it would station observers in several key counting centres in the island on election night. Dr. PaikiasothySaravanamuttu told the Daily FT, the CMEV had asked to be stationed in counting centres in the districts of Matara, Colombo and all districts of the Northern Province. “We are grateful for the Elections Commissioner’s cooperation and for allowing monitors to enter counting centres in this election,” Dr. Saravanamuttu said. He said a limited number of observers would be permitted to watch the count in 300 centres around the island. Asked at what stage of the election there could be a possibility for computerised fraud, Dr. Saravanamuttu said the Elections Commissioner was consistent in his reassurances on the issue. “The issue has been raised since the very beginning of this election process at various times and the Elections Commissioner has repeatedly informed us that there was little or no room for this manipulation in the stages of the counting process,” he explained. He said that since the CMEV would be allowed to watch the count on Thursday night, the monitors would be in a better position to verify that on 9 January.