CaFFE Interim Report on Sri Lanka NPC Election 2013
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Northern Provincial Council Election 2013
Establishing the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) will be a historical landmark in Sri Lankan political history. Residents of the North go to vote on September 21, 2013 after the end of 30 years of war and nearly four years of post war reconciliation attempts.
Noting that any election held in the Northern Province has a significant impact on establishing a civic administration in the highly militarised region, Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has been campaigning for a free and fair election in the North since the end of the war in May 2009.
During the revision of the Voters’ Registry in 2012, CaFFE operatives played an important role in the revision process. They distributed applications and educated Northerners of the importance of voting. One of the main issues they noted while working in the Province was that a large number of eligible voters did not have valid documents of identification. Realising that this will cause a significant number of individuals to lose their voting franchise, CaFFE commenced an initiative to provide identity cards to the Northerners from August 2012 to February 2013.
After the Northern Provincial Council elections were announced, CaFFE and its sister organisation Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR) recommenced their mobile clinics to facilitate the issuing of identification documents with the assistance of the Department for Registration of Persons (DRP). Under this initiative CaFFE was able to facilitate applications for 36,514 National Identity Cards, Birth Certificates and other identification documents within 41 days. This programme was conducted with the Northern Provincial Council elections in mind.
CaFFE officially commenced election monitoring in all five Districts in the Northern Province July 25, 2013 and this Report is based on what CaFFE observers have reported from that date until September 15, 2013. CaFFE is the only election monitoring body that has coordination centres in every District in the North. In addition, it utilised the facilities and infrastructure of CHR, to help monitor the election. Detailed information of its activities and the incidents referred to in this Report can be found at ttp://www.caffesrilanka.org/ and http://www.chrsrilanka.com/. Some of the featured stories on the election were also published on http://lankafreedom.com/, a Rights based news website.
As a responsible election monitoring organisation with a reputation for credibility CaFFE has only included complaints that could be verified. It has not included anonymous tips or statements made by individuals without any evidence. These are incidents investigated by 28 long-term observers and 43 field staff members on the ground who are independent and impartial. The information was backed by CHR’s ‘civil society network,’ the largest umbrella organisation for civil society organisations in the Province.
H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa established the Northern Provincial Council on July 5, 2013 and ordered the Commissioner of Elections to conduct elections in the Province. However, there was an initial skepticism among some election stakeholders who viewed this as an attempt by the Government to mislead the international community. There were rumours that the Government would postpone the election by using a shadow organisation to take legal action. The Local Council elections for Pudukuduirippu and Maritime Pattu (in Mullaitivu District, where the final battle took place) have not yet been conducted due to an ongoing judicial inquiry and there were expectations from some quarters that a similar fate may befall the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections.
CaFFE was also of the view that this would be done through a Writ Application to the Court of Appeal to prevent the NPC elections. Indeed, an application was filed by the General Secretary of the Sinhala JathikaPeramuna, JayanthaLiyanage but the Court was not inclined to issue notice on the Commissioner of Elections on September 18, 2013.
Detailed report of the Pre-election period in the North
Despite expectations of serious election law violations, the period up until nominations was relatively peaceful with only a few incidents being reported. Some of the incidents that CaFFE did observe in this period include:
1. A protest against the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) near the Jaffna Kachcheri office when they were handing over nominations and there was no adequate security provided for the premises. There were only 2 police officers outside the Kachcheri premises when the nomination process began. Due to the protest, the Senior Assistant Election Commissioner had to walk to office.
2. CaFFE observers confirmed that the Military attempted to procure a copy of the Voters’ Registry through Grama Niladaris, Divisional Secretaries and Election Officials. The Military officially requested the Jaffna Elections Commissioner for a copy, which the Commissioner Mr.Achchdan rejected by saying “The Army has nothing to with this election.” Similar attempts were made to obtain the Registry through GramaNildaris in Mullaitivu.
3. The intimidation of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) candidates S. Sayanthan and AnanthiSasitharan – the wife of former LTTE Trincomalee political wing leader, Elilan – by a group identifying itself as composed of Military personnel, after they had handed over their nominations.
The Northern Province is the most highly militarised region in the country. There are close to 30 Army camps along the A9 road from Vavuniya to Jaffna.
Some of the main Army camps that can be found in Vavuniya are St. Joseph’s Camp and Mandai camp, STF camps in Puliyankulam, Periyakulam and Gurusidam, and those of the 56th Regiment in Thandikulam, the 19th detachment of the Gajaba Regiment in Kanakarayankulam; 561 Regiment and the 19th Sri Lankan Task Force. Meanwhile detachments of Regiments 574, 632, 53 and 571 can be found in Maankulam and Kokavil while an Army Intelligence base is located in Iranamadu. Large camps are also located at Elephant Pass, Maankulam, Pulapolei, Palei, Muhamalei, Eludumattuwal, Varani, Nunavil, Nanavilwala and Murasuvil.
Meanwhile media reports indicate that 15 Army divisions are stationed in Vanni and Jaffna (the 21st, 53rd, 54th, 56th, 57th, 58th, 59th, 61st, 64th, 65th, 66th and 68th in Vanni and the 51st, 52nd and 55th in the Jaffna peninsula and Islands). In addition, several Task Forces’ (2nd, 3rd and 7th) “independent” Regimental and Brigade units, two large naval commands and two Air Force bases are also located in the Northern Province.
This continued military presence in the North has caused concern among many political parties that are suspicious of the Government, believing that it may use these soldiers to intimidate political activists, stifle dissent, carry out political activities, etc. After sustained and in-depth research and analysis, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in November 2011 recommended that:
It is important that the Northern Province reverts to civilian administration in matters relating to the day-to-day life of the people, and in particular with regard to matters pertaining to economic activities such as agriculture, fisheries, land, etc. The Military presence must progressively recede to the background to enable the people to return to normal civilian life and enjoy the benefits of peace. (8.211)
The responses also indicate that certain State buildings and private land/buildings in the North and East continue to be used by the Security Forces. The Commission recommends the phasing out of the involvement of the Security Forces in civilian activities and use of private lands by the Security Forces with reasonable timelines being given. (9.171)
CaFFE, which followed the LLRC process thoroughly, strongly believes that its recommendations should be implemented.
Attack on TNA candidate and independent observers
Independent election observers were assaulted by an ‘unidentified group’ around 00.45 am September 20 when they attempted to investigate an incident regarding Ms. AnanthiSasitharan, who was the wife of ‘Elilan’, former LTTE political head of Trincomalee.
Around 100 assailants had gathered around Sasitharan’s house last night and fearing her life she has left her house secretly. When election monitors rushed to the scene, they were initially prevented from entering the site and were laster assaulted when they pressed for access.
CaFFE National Organizer Ahmed Manas who was in Jaffna at the moment of the attack said that there were a large number of Military personnel in the area.“The military was deployed in numbers just as the incident took place.”
Eight persons including an election monitor were wounded by the incident. Later police provided security to rush them to the hospital. The attackers have taken away the cell phones and SIM cards of the wounded.
CaFFE is highly concerned about the last minute military deployment in Jaffna, as elections are civil affair and have nothing to do with the military.
CaFFE observer in the North reported 18 incidents where unidentified men who have ‘short hair that walk according to marching rhythm’ were conducting propaganda activities in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu on September 19. All propaganda activities were to stop on September 18 midnight.
An analysis of election results in the Northern Province since the gaining of Independence shows that the Northern voters have backed parties with a pro federal or Tamil nationalistic ideology. Another striking aspect, albeit similar to that of the South, are periodical Tamil nationalistic alliances. In addition, there is a tendency to vote against the ruling Party, whether it is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP, currently the largest constituent party of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)) or the United National Party (UNP).
For example, The Tamil Congress, which fielded nine candidates at the General Election in 1947, won seven seats. In the General Election of 1952, four out of the seven candidates fielded by the Tamil Congress were elected while two out of the seven candidates of the Federal Party were elected. The trend was even more evident in the 1956 General Election where the Federal Party, which was more hardline than the Tamil Congress, won 10 seats (with 14 candidates fielded). The Tamil Congress also won one seat (having fielded only one candidate). The Northern voters stuck to the Federal Party in the Election of July 1960, with 16 out of the 21 fielded candidates winning seats in Parliament. At the 1970 General Election, the Federal Party won 13 seats (having fielded 19 candidates) while the Tamil Congress won three seats (having fielded 12 candidates).
Even in 1977 when the United National Party won a five-sixth majority, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) whose ideology was a hardline evolution of the Federal Party, dominated the North winning 18 seats (from 23 candidates) and became the main opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament at that point in time. In recent years, the Illankai Tamil ArasuKachchi (ITAK)has dominated Northern elections. ITAK is commonly referred to as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as it is a coalition of Tamil nationalistic political parties.
Points to ponder
After the LTTE was defeated in May 2009, several elections have been held in the North. The Elections for the Jaffna Municipal Council and the Vavuniya Urban Council in 2009, as well as the 2011 Local Authorities elections have created a batch of grassroots political leaders who bring in hitherto unseen dimensions into Northern politics. The 2013 Provincial Council election can be seen as a progression of the political evolution of these new leaders.
Surveillance by Security Forces continues to be an issue in the North and political and social activists have constantly been harassed. Southern political parties and activists who attempted to create a bridge of reconciliation between politically conscious youth of the North and the South have borne the brunt of this. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Hon. MP Sunil Handunetti was brutally assaulted in late 2010 while LalithWeeeraju and KuganMurugan of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) were abducted in December 10, 2011, never to be seen again. CaFFE has first-hand experience of Army surveillance as many of the meetings it has held with civil society organisations were monitored by Security Forces personnel. This has led to a climate of fear to prevail among Jaffna youth.
Meanwhile Jaffna media is considered as the most suppressed and censored. Freedom House ranks Sri Lankan Press at number 74 in the world, under the “not free” category. CaFFE, in recent times, had pointed out that the mainstream Sri Lankan media is suffering from crippling self-censorship and that self-censorship is especially predominant in their reporting of issues faced by the citizens of the Northern Province. CaFFE fears that this will be the worst case scenario in the coming Northern Provincial Council elections as important issues regarding the election, governance, security and social matters will not be reported.
Facilitation of voters
According to the 2012 Voter Registry, 110,000 Northerners didn’t have a valid document of identification while 85,000 did not possess a National Identity Card. With CaFFE having been involved in education programmes to encourage Northerners to register and cast their vote, it came to the realisation that the lack of a valid document of identification could lead to disenfranchisement. Thus CHR and CaFFE commenced a mobile clinic to facilitate issuing of identification documents in August 2012; documents of identification for over 15,000 individuals were facilitated.
CHR and CaFFE recommenced the mobile clinics when Northern Provincial Council elections were announced and 36,514 applications for National Identity Cards, Birth Certificates and other identification documents were facilitated within 41 days. CaFFE has strongly recommended assisting Northern voters to obtain document of identification since the end of the war and the above mentioned programme has been operational since 2009.
Registration of displaced voters
Since 2009 CaFFE has been urging the Authorities to register those who were displaced due to the war so that they could take part in the electoral process at the earliest. After years of continuous lobbying – election authorities, MPs, political parties and other relevant stakeholders – and publicly campaigning by CaFFE, the Government introduced Electoral Registration (Special Provisions) Act No 27 of 2013, which was passed in Parliament unanimously, which facilitated the registration of IDPs in the Voter Registry. However, only 10,243 IDPs sent in applications, out of which 5,254 applications were rejected by the Commissioner. That 51% of the applications were rejected is unacceptable under any circumstance, however, the fact that over 35,000 IDPs did not even attempt to send in applications complicated this further. Assuring the voting rights of the IDPs has been universally accepted as a necessity, as support from all political parties showed. Given this context, the fact that only 10,243 IDPs sent in applications and that only 4,989 applications were properly filled, shows that adequate lobbying, campaigning and education of IDPs had not taken place.
In addition, the Department of Elections plans to establish a distant voting centre in Puttalam to facilitate 11,000 applicants who were displaced from the Jaffna and Mullaitivu Electoral Districts and are now residing, mostly, in Puttalam.
CaFFE complained to the Commissioner of Elections that distant voting for IDPs can be manipulated as it has reliable information that some of the applications which were handed to Election Officials were not filled by the voters themselves. There were instances where applications obtained from regional Elections Department offices were resubmitted within three hours, filled by the voter and certified with the rubber stamp of the respective Grama Niladari. Considering the distance between Puttalam and Mannar and the poor transportation facilities that exist in the area, it is obvious that this is impossible. Even if we ignore the logistics, an individual needs a significant amount of time to properly fill the application and get it certified by the Grama Niladari.
Some of the relatives of well known SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) supporters complained that they did not apply for distant voting and that someone else had submitted applications on their behalf.
CaFFE assumes that a political group has attempted to disenfranchise selected individuals with the assistance of Government Officials. CaFFE requested the Commissioner of Elections to not disenfranchise the people who submitted applications for distant voting and requested that it conduct a mandatory check to verify the identity of the persons who arrive to cast votes. If there is reasonable doubt, they must be asked to make a statement to the law enforcement officials so that if an election stakeholder wished, legal action could be taken.
As there are only 88,916 registered voters (2011), even 1,500 votes could make a huge difference in the final outcome. The Department of Elections has been informed of this manoeuvre and CaFFE strongly believes that an inquiry must be held looking at the Government Officials who have certified these applications.
The Kankesanthurai (KKS) Polling Division was associated with the most number of disfranchised voters during the General, Presidential and the Local Authorities elections in 2010 and 2012. Due to the High Security Zone (HSZ) established there by the Sri Lankan Army, residents were relocated to various places in the Jaffna peninsula. According to the Voters’ Registry there are over 10,000 IDPs from KKS. The Department of Election has established few polling centres for IDPs from KKS in MallakamVisaladchyVidyalaya (registered voters 2763)MallakamMahaVidyalaya (6530) Vasavilan Central College (over 6900). However there are some who still have to travel over 20 kilometres to get to the nearest polling station.
The accepted norm is that “the polling booths must be established for the convenience of the voters”, however the establishment of High Security Zones does not allow this, said ChaturaEakanayaka, the Jaffna Organiser of CHR, speaking during an identification documentation facilitation programme. Even CaFFE struggled to find a place to conduct a mobile clinic to facilitate the issuing of identification documents for the IDPs as a High Security Zone meant restricted movement. Some of those who attended the mobile clinics were not able to return to their homes until midnight, as freedom of movement and transportation is always a problem.
Compared to the 2011 Voters’ Registry, the current one is more representative of the population of the Province. Names of the deceased have been removed and many anomalies have been rectified. The claim and objection period during the preparation of the Registry worked well and the appeals were carefully considered. In 2012 CaFFE assisted the Voters’ Registry revision by conducting the largest ever voter education programme in the Northern Province, a feat of which it is very proud of.
The supplementary list which was established as afacilitation for IDP voting under the Electoral Registration (Special Provisions) Act No 27 of 2013, has not met the expected outcome. Nevertheless CaFFE views it as a positive step taken towards ensuring the voting rights of IDPs.
Counting of Votes
There are several politicians in the North who still believe that the outcome of the vote can be changed at the counting stage. Election monitors are also in the dark about this aspect of the elections they are not allowed to observe the counting. CaFFE has written to the Commissioner of Elections seeking access to counting stations and hopes that the Commissioner will grant it permission to observe this important aspect of the election.
Given below is a table detailing the number of registered voters in each District of the Northern Province according to the 2012 Voters’ Registry, the number of contesting political parties and Independent Groups, and the number of candidates and the Seats available.
No. of registered voters
No. of contesting Parties
No of contesting Independent Groups
No of candidates
Campaign Highlights in the Northern Province
– Less violence compared to the Central and North-western Provinces
– Hate speech
– Abuse of State property
– Military involvement
– Creating fear psychosis
– Voter trace back theory
Election law violations and incidents of election related violence in the Jaffna peninsula do not necessarily get the attention they deserve due to the relative isolation of the area. CaFFE’s mediation allowed Sri Lankans to see how a few candidates are using firearms to intimidate their opponents, which has led to a shrinking of democratic space and created a fear psychosis. In addition, the biased behaviour of the Jaffna Police was also highlighted which has forced them to be less partial. Since CaFFE’s mediation there have been no reported cases of the use of firearms in election related violence taking place in Jaffna.
United National Party (UNP) candidate for Jaffna District ThyagarajaKumarakeshwaran received death threats from the UPFA. The Commissioner of Elections directed (PCE/2013/32/JAF/1) IGP N.K. Ilangakoon to provide him with adequate security on August 16, 2013. However Kumarakeshwaran told CaFFE representatives on August 31 that he continues to receive threats and is considering leaving Jaffna to ensure his safety.
TNA Candidate V. Kanagarathnam and his supporters were attacked on Thursday (August 15, 2013) in Delft Island while they were visited the island to conduct a door-to-door campaign. “TNA candidate V. Kanagarathnam and his supporters were staying at a house when they were attacked. The attackers have been identified as Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) members. Among those was the DelftPradeshiyaSabha chairman,” TNA MP Hon. S. Adikkalanathan told CaFFE. “Our supporters have been asked to leave this island and not to return,” he added. Those who sustained injuries during the attack were admitted to Jaffna hospital. Meanwhile the EPDP has stated that the Party will conduct an investigation of the incident to verify TNA’s claim. CaFFE’s own inquiries revealed that Ranasinghe Ariyarathne, who was supposed to have been injured during the attack, had been admitted to Delft hospital on August 13, 2013 and his hospital records showed that he had fallen off a roof. When contacted, the Delft Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman told CaFFE that the vehicle (NP 253-5112) that was allegedly used for the assault did not run on the night of August 15, 2013. CaFFE is not in a position to make a judgment on the event that transpired.
The vehicle (250-4392) of TNA candidate AnanthySasitharan, the wife of former LTTE Trincomalee political wing leader Elilan, was attacked on September 10, 2013 around 9.45pm. The incident took place between Oddumadam Junction and the Mosque near the Bajaj Company in Jaffna. Sasitharan said that her vehicle slowed down to make way for a convoy of three VIP vehicles with armed guards and that a person riding a motorcycle, just behind the convoy, hurled a cement brick in her direction. However neither Sasitharan nor her driver was injured.
UPFA Kilinochchi organiser and Provincial Council candidate GeethanjaliNaguleswaran complained that close to 30 TNA supporters surrounded her vehicle, while she was on her way to a rally at Maniyakkumal on September 9, 2013, and abused her in a bid to intimidate her.
Above the Law – Jaffna elections – Where suspects are taken out of Court without handcuffs and taken to prison in Police cars
CaFFE observes that election related violence in this election has been carried out by selected candidates with powerful connections. These politicians have repeatedly used firearms to intimidate political rivals, including others of the same Party, as Law Enforcement Authorities have not taken necessary action.
Two of the most serious incidents of election related violence in the North was perpetrated by S. Ramanathan, the father of UPFA Jaffna group leader R. Ankajan. Ramanathan assaulted a supporter of the TNA on the evening of August 20, 2013 and intimidated him using a firearm. There was tension in the area as residents of the area protested demanding that the Police arrest Ramanathan, who attempted to flee the area. Although CaFFE and other concerned parties attempted to bring Ramanathan to justice, Jaffna Police took no action against him.
Emboldened by this impunity, Ramanathan shot two supporters of UPFA candidate K. Sarvananda near the Chavakachcheri Post Office on August 27, 2013. Ramanathan arrived at Sarvananda’s office and fired at it. However, in this instance, Ramanathan was arrested by the Police and Chavakachcheri Magistrate S. Lenin Kumar ordered him remanded until September 12, 2013.
However while he was being escorted out of the Court by Police officers, Ramanathan asked the officers to stop and spoke to the media and Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) observers. He stated that the Jaffna Police was not properly implementing the law, that he was not involved in the shooting and that he will join hands with President Rajapaksa to defeat police injustice. Earlier, Ramanathan had arrived at the Chavakachcheri Magistrate’s Court in his personal Defender jeep and he was taken to prison in a comfortable car belonging to the Police.
Ramanathan is accused of firing and injuring supporters of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidate K. Sarvananda. One person who was wounded was still undergoing treatment at Jaffna hospital on August 31, 2013 and he told CaFFE that Ramanathan arrived at Sarvananda’s office which is located near the Chavakachcheri Post Office and fired four shots at those inside the office. Sarvananda was also in the office when this incident occurred.
CaFFE conducted an in-depth investigation about Ramanathan and found that he had previously been involved in a similar incident. During the General Election in 2010, Ramanathan was involved in a shooting incident between two groups. He also held the current Mayor of Jaffna hostage and threatened her by shooting the ground. However Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) supporters rescued the Mayor, chased away Ramanathan and burnt his vehicle.
Moreover, in 1994, when he was a supporter of the United National Party (UNP) and operating in the Colombo District, he was accused of shooting at Opposition supporters in an incident at Mt Lavinia. The UNP regime shielded Ramanathan. These repeated escapes from justice had made Ramanathan more brazen over the years and is an example of how an armed minority engaging in politics can be a menace to society.
CaFFE has continuously highlighted the importance of upholding election and civil laws in the country as the lack of law enforcement emboldens these violent actors to carry out even more brazen violations. As the election draws near, the lack of law enforcement will lead to further spikes in violence.
Involvement of the Security Forces
As highlighted earlier in the Report, the Northern Province is one of the most militarised areas of the world. The all-pervasive military presence and its alleged surveillance of all political and social activism unaffiliated to the Government has caused many election stakeholders to worry about how security personnel would be used in elections. However, it has been acknowledged that conducting elections is a civil affair, as reiterated by CaFFE National Organiser Ahmed Manas during the opening of CaFFE’sKilinochchi office: “The police is adequate for providing security during the electoral process and the Security Forces should have no involvement in the electoral process. There have been many allegations linking Security Forces to election campaigning.”
While the initial complaints were of Security Forces personnel conducting surveillance on Opposition candidates and supporters, the most recent allegations are of their involvement in the election campaigns of selected candidates. It has been reported that soldiers in civilian clothing are carrying out election activities pretending to be supporters of UPFA candidates, remarkably similar to what CaFFE discovered in Kurunegala where Police officers were found pasting posters for UPFA candidate Johan Fernando.
Commonwealth Observers on CCTVs
More recently CCTV cameras were installed in the Heritage Hotel, Jaffna just before Commonwealth Election Observers checked in and CaFFE learns that a new set of recruits have replaced the regular staff of the hotel. Commonwealth is observing the NPC elections with 4 monitors and secretariat staff.
Political leadership must prevent candidates from attending events organised by the Security Forces
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) expresses its surprise at United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidate for Jaffna District M. Remedius attending an event organised by the Army in Nawanthurei, Jaffna on August 19, 2013. Mr.Remedius is a lawyer by profession and has an excellent understanding of election laws. However he has attempted to gain undue political mileage by attending an event organised by the Army. CaFFE believes that all political party leaders and general secretaries must take action to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.
Army officers, who are responsible for assuring safety and security, should not involve themselves in elections, which is an intrinsic part of civil administration. This was reiterated during a discussion between the Commissioner of Elections and leaders of political parties where it was agreed that the Security Forces should not be involved in election related activities. The Department of Elections also agreed not to involve Army personnel in any part of the electoral process. In such a context candidates should not attend events organised by the Security Forces.
When Elections Department personnel arrived at the meeting to investigate a complaint they received, there was a conflict of opinion between Elections Officials and Army personnel. This is a serious issue as CaFFE is of the opinion that Elections Officials and the Security Forces should have a similar understanding about election related matters to ensure a free and fair election.
Background Checks of Selected Candidates
A group identifying themselves as attached to the Army Intelligence Service visited the home of Nationalities Unity Organisation (NUO) candidate Arumugam Kirubaharan in Mullativu asking for personal details on August 1, 2013.
United Lanka People’s Party (ULPP) candidate for Mullaitivu District I.P. Somaratne was also visited by Army Intelligence officers attached to the Kosgama Army Camp.
Intelligence officers attached to the Galkulama Army Camp visited Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) candidate for Mullaitivu District, H.W. Karunathilake on August 10, 2013. Later, Major Piyatissa from the same Camp spoke to Karunathilake over the phone requesting personal information.
Two men clad in Army uniform visited the home of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) candidate for Jaffna, K. Sapananthan on August 4, 2013 inquiring about him while he was not present. The two later returned to get Sapananthan’s National Identity Card number and mobile phone number. However Sapananthan, who is a lawyer by profession, refused to provide this information in an informal manner stating that he is ready to visit the Camp the two inquirers are attached to and provide the information in an official setting. The two men had told Sapananthan that the Chief Officer of the Chembarai Army Camp instructed them to obtain information of those contesting under the TNA ticket. However DIG – Elections, GaminiNawarathne, inquiring into the matter stated that when questioned Lt. Dimuthu Pathma Karunarathne, Commander of the Chembarai Army Camp had stated that he had issued no such directive. The DIG Jaffna has been requested to investigate the incident and identity the two men in Army uniform.
Two men, between the ages of 25-35, arriving in a black unmarked motorcycle questioned S. Selva, a JVP candidate for Mannar District, in detail, on August 1, 2013 around 5.20pm. Selva said that he is unable to verify whether the two men belong to the Security Forces adding however that he would be able to identify them if he saw them again. CaFFE has learnt that Selva was asked the most personal and completely irrelevant questions including ‘how did you meet your wife?’ and ‘was the marriage an arranged one?’.Selva, who previously resided in Etampitiya, Badulla moved to Mannar in 2011 after he married S. Jeyaranjani.
DIG – Elections GaminiNawarathne carried an inquiry into these incidents after the Commissioner of Elections instructed (PCE/2013/19/JAF 1)him on August 12, 2013. However Navarathne’s report (S/DIG/AD/A/815/2013) to the Commissioner on August 15, 2013 failed to provide any conclusion about whether those who questioned the above mentioned candidates belonged to the Security Forces nor any evidence of systematic and concrete action taken to properly investigate the incidents.
Most candidates contesting for the Northern Provincial Council elections have a bitter experience with armed groups and are instinctively fearful of individuals in uniform or those carrying weapons. CaFFE believes that it is vital that Election Officials take steps to prevent such incidents from happening as that automatically leads to a weakening of representative democracy in the North.
Campaigning for Selected Candidates
Addressing a press conference in Colombo CaFFE Executive Director KeerthiTennakoon said, “The UPFA coalition is strengthened by two other partners for the NPC election – the Sri Lanka Police Party (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Military Party (SLMP).” The involvement of the Military and the Police in the campaigning is significant and they are backing selected candidates.
In addition to the above mentioned incidents, there are many allegations that the Army is actively campaigning for selected candidates. Some UPFA candidates when questioned about the illegal propaganda activities carried out told CaFFE that it is their supporters who carry out these actions and controlling them is beyond them. CaFFE observers have reported that some candidates have ‘supporters’ who are “short haired, walk according to marching rhythm, wear identical clothes and are of athletic built.”
The Commissioner of Elections wrote (PCE/2013/19/General) to MP Hon. SusilPremajayanth, General Secretary of the UPFA, and Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, National Organiser of the UPFA, on September 9, 2013 stating that he has received information from reliable sources that armed groups are carrying out propaganda for UPFA candidate for Jaffna Mr. M. Remedius. The Commissioner added that due to the presence of these armed individuals, who are present throughout the day, Police officers in Jaffna were hesitant to deploy labourers to remove the cutouts of Remedius, Akiladas Sivakolendu and Kumaru Sarvanandan placed near the Jaffna Kachcheri.
Individuals employed by the Security Forces and Civil Defence Force (CDF) have carried out door-to-door election propaganda in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts on September 5 and 6, 2013. During investigations carried out by the Department of Elections and CaFFE, independently, it was revealed that a member of the CDF, a retired Army Captain now attached to the CDF, primary school teachers employed by the CDF, and still unidentified groups with ‘short hair and walking according to marching rhythm’ have been deployed for campaigning in Kilinochchi.
The leader of the TNA Hon. R. Sampanthan wrote to President Rajapaksa on the same day asking him to restrict the Army to barracks to ensure a free and fair election on September 21, 2013. Sampanthan said that there are allegations that the Army is supporting selected government candidates and has at times discouraged people from voting. “The rumour that the Military has nominated some candidates of the Government Party (UPFA) list is fuelled by soldiers pasting posters promoting those candidates and guarding such posters from being torn down even by Election Officials. There was at least one instance when we made a written complaint that the Army was distributing building materials to voters at Navanthurai, Jaffna, with hoardings of some candidates kept in the background. A photograph showing a candidate physically participating in this event with the Army was published in a newspaper,” he wrote in the letter.
However what needs to be kept in mind is that although the TNA made many allegations to the media and over-the-phone complaints to CaFFE, it was not able to produce concrete evidence substantiating its claims. It is CaFFE’s observation is that some complaints were propagandist by nature.
Using Hate Speech during Campaigning
Sri Lanka has bitter experiences of the mistrust among different ethnic communities, which is exploited by political parties, feeding and strengthening the ethnic prejudices of the average citizen. Inquiring into the reasons which led to the 30 year long ethnic conflict, the LLRC identified the use of ethnic prejudices by political parties as a key reason for the conflict.
LLRC Commissioners observed that ‘ethno-centric politics practiced by politicians of all communities for the purpose of electoral gain divide communities and create disharmony'(8.301) and one of the recommendations it made was that laws regarding hate speech – that contributes to communal disharmony – should be strictly enforced.
The Commission observes that during the last four to five decades there have been instances where ‘hate speech’ had contributed to major communal disharmony. Since ‘hate speech’ relating to ethnicity, religion and literature exacerbate ethnic and religious tension, creating disunity and conflict, deterrent laws must be enacted to deal with such practices, and these laws should be strictly enforced. (8.303)
As mentioned earlier, political parties based in the North adhere to a strong communal ideology and the rhetoric is often nationalistic. CaFFE has received numerous complaints that TNA MPs Hon. S. Sridharan, Hon. Suresh Premachandran and Hon. SelvamAdaikkalanathan as well as Mr.VaithyalingamKugarasa – Chairman of the KarachchiPradeshiyaSabha, Mr.Ariyaratnam and Mr.SubramaniamPasupathipillai – candidates for the Kilinochchi District and Mr.Sivamaran – President of the Association of Disabled Persons, have used hate speech during election campaigning. The Commissioner of Elections wrote (PCE 2013/19/GEN) to MP Hon. Mavai S. Senathirajah on September 4, 2013 stating that this is an election law violation and to refrain from making such statements during the period of the election.
CaFFE is of the view that the ‘hate speech’ used by some leading TNA members is not acceptable. UNP Jaffna District candidate Mr.ThyagarajaTharakeshwaran has also been accused of using hate speech in his campaigning.
Abuse of State property
An analysis of past elections indicates that misuse of public property is a decisive factor in the pre-election period and has a significant impact on the outcome of an election. The misuse of State property, including promises of future employment and welfare benefits, are in a way, direct strategies employed by the Government to influence the voter. However it is not only the UPFA that misuses State property. The TNA has also used public property of PradeshiyaSabhas (those of Karachchi and Walikamam for instance) under its control.
TNA candidate Dr.KandaiyahServeskaran has used ‘On State Service’ envelopes and stamps given to MP Suresh Premachandran to send his propaganda material to voters.
A selected group of teachers in Jaffna were called for an event organised by EPDP MP Hon. Satirakumar on August 10, 2013 at NPCS Hall, Jaffna.
Kopai – North Grama Niladari S. Wasanthakumar organised a meeting for senior citizens on August 15, 2013 at SaravanathaVidyalaya with the participation of UPFA candidate Mr.Liyangane.
The Weak and the Powerless – Samurdhi officers, Ex LTTE cadres and newly recruited Graduates
CaFFE observers report that several groups of UPFA candidates are using school and preschool teachers and Samurdhi officers for electioneering in Kilinochchi. EPDP deployed schoolteachers for electioneering in Thirunagar, Jayanthinagar and Ganeshapuram while UPFA candidate for KilinochchiMr. Anton Anpazakan deployed teachers in Pallai. Meanwhile preschool teachers were used for electioneering in Santhapuram, Vaddakkachchi and Thiruvaiyaru by UPFA candidate Geethanjali Nakuleswaran.
Volunteer teachers have been told that they will not be selected for Teacher Training School and Samurdhi officers were told they will not be made permanent, unless they ‘volunteer’ for campaigning.
Residents of Kilinochchi depend on the services of the Defence establishment for the most basic facilities and when primary school teachers, paid by the Ministry of Defence, conduct election activities, the parents of the children they teach are also compelled to vote for the candidate that has deployed them fearing that if s/he is not voted into power the essential services provided would be stopped.
Writing to the Director General of the Samurdhi Authority on September 10, 2013, the Commissioner of Elections (PCE 2013/19/KIL 12) directed that Samurdhi officers cannot engage in politics during office hours or under duty leave. In addition, intimidating Samurdhi beneficiaries by threatening to revoke their benefits is a violation of election laws. The Commissioner of Elections has written to the Samurdhi Authority several times during the massive deployment of Samurdhi officers for electioneering in all three Provinces where elections are being held.
The Elections Commissioner had to send three delegations to stop the unlawful engagement of these State officials. However even as late as September 18, 2013 Samurdhi officers and primary school teachers were deployed in Kilinochchi for election campaigning.
CaFFE is deeply concerned about the misengagement and abuse of Samurdhi officers and newly recruited graduates, who are among the lowest ranking public officials and thus most uncertain about their jobs.
TNA MP Hon. S. Sritharan alleged that civilians, preschool teachers and rehabilitated LTTE cadres employed in farms run by the Security Forces have been forced by the Civil Security Department (CSD) to cast their votes by post. He added that they had been recruited without being informed that they are being paid by the Ministry of Defence and were surprised to learn that they belong to the Security staff category.
Samurdhi officers for Nedunkerni, Vavuniya, Karassu, Sasikaran and several other offices are going house to house compiling information on what Party residents have decided to vote for.
UPFA candidate for VavuniyaMuttuMohammad is using a vehicle belonging to the Vavuniya Kachcheri.
A cab (WP PE 1716) belonging to Rathmalana Textile Institute, an organisation under Hon. Minister of Industry and Commerce Risad Badhiutheen, has been sent for electioneering in Mannar from August 16, 2013. Badhiutheen’s brother is contesting from Mannar District.
The Samurdhi Authority has convened selected individuals from Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullativu Districts for a pre-job training at Savusiripaya on August 17, 2013.
The Industrial Development Board conducted an interview on August 2, 2013 to recruit a Printing Officer in violation of the Election Commissioner’s directive not to recruit, transfer or promote any individual, in areas where elections are being held, during the election period. The Commissioner of Elections wrote (PCE 2013/19/JAF 5) to the Chairman of the Industrial Development Board on August 8, 2013 requesting him to immediately revoke any appointments made and to take action against officials who violated the Commissioner’s directives.
A meeting organised by the TNA was held at the Chavakachcheri DS office on August 22, 2013.
EPDP candidate for Jaffna District GnanabakthiSridaran attended a women’s meeting at the Cooperative Society of Nemarachchi East, Kodkamam and asked attendees to vote for her. A monetary donation, obtained through a NGO, was given to the Women’s Organisation at the event, held on September 2, 2013.
Assistant Commissioner for Vavuniya District I.S.M. Mohideen is abusing his authority to assist UPFA candidate preferential No.27. In addition to using his official vehicle for electioneering, he is forcing employees under him, threatening them with transfers and punishment, if they do not vote for the candidate he supports.
A Campaigning governor
It is immoral, unethical and indecent
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) is deeply concerned about the reactions of Former Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, Governor of the Northern Province, to criticism regarding his campaigning on behalf of the UPFA in the Jaffna District. He has told media that he has a right to engage in politics after attending a United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) rally.
CaFFE believes that the Northern Province Governor is a public servant and thus has a moral duty to not appear at UPFA rallies and cheer the UPFA candidates contesting for the election being held on September 21, 2013.
What Governor Chandrasiri is doing is almost unprecedented. In fact, there are prominent politicians who have earned the respect of the nation as Governors of Provincial Councils. For example, Governors such as P.C. Imbulana, D.B. Wijetunga and other distinguished politicians who held such positions in the past. Even though the late D.B. Wijetunga became the Prime Minister and then the President of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, he never appeared on political stage during the time he served as Governor.
Even at present, highly seasoned and well experienced politicians such as Mr. Nanda Mattew and Mr.Tikiri Kobbekaduwa hold the position of Governor without engaging in active electoral politics. We should not forget that until very recently Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa was the Yatinuwara SLFP Organiser. However, after His Excellency the President appointed him as Governor of Central Province, he did not publicly engage in election campaigning. Moreover we have not seen Governor Nanda Matthew or any other Governors engaging in open election campaigning in any of the previous elections.
There are very recent examples of Provincial Governors maintaining the dignity of their office. For example, even though her son contested for the last Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council election, Southern Province Governor Mrs.KumariBalasuriya did not openly appear on the UPFA stage to campaign for her son even though Sabaragamuwa was a different Province altogether and did not fall under her authority. CaFFE well understands that Governors can have political opinions and/or might support a political party, but decent Governors do not openly show their preferences by cheering and appearing on election platforms, or holding hands with candidates. It is immoral, unethical and indecent.
In addition, Cabinet Minister Hon. KeheliyaRambukwella, one of the top Ministers in the administration and an experienced politician, told media on September 12, 2013 that although the Northern Province Governor has been appointed by the President, his participation in UPFA election rallies is problematic. As a representative of the President he can participate in events attended by the President if he wishes, Rambukwella said. Meanwhile the Commissioner of Elections had already informed the Governors of the Northern, Central and Northwestern Provinces that they should not engage in electioneering. This was even communicated to the General Secretaries of the UPFA and SLFP.
The Governor, according to the Sri Lanka Constitution, summons the first sitting of the Provincial Council. CaFFE does not understand how an individual who is currently displaying his political preferences openly on election platforms of a particular political party can make a fair judgment of who he should invite to establish the Council after the election. In addition he would have lost the respect of representatives from other political parties by engaging in electoral politics.
Illegal Election Propaganda
Compared to other election held areas, complaints of illegal election propaganda are relatively low in the Northern Province. However it is unclear whether this is because of a lack of reporting due to a climate of fear prevailing.
UPFA candidate for Jaffna District Ankajan Ramanathan has published an advertisement on August 11, 2013 in the Valampuri newspaper published in Jaffna asking the self employed to register at his office for employment opportunities.
The Police did not take any action to prevent UPFA candidates and their supporters from carrying out propaganda activities using PA systems in front of the Jaffna Kachcheri on July 28, 2013.
UPFA candidates for the Kilinochchi District held a vehicle procession in the city after they handed over their nominations on August 1, 2013.
UPFA candidates for the Kilinochchi District held a series of meetings with MP Hon. Namal Rajapaksa during August 29-31, 2013 and used PA systems without seeking Police approval.
Posters and cutouts were displayed on the Sathosa building in Kilinochchi and on an arch built across the Main Street. In addition, posters of UPFA candidate Vijayakrishnan are being displayed on vehicles (PB 9572 and GO 4760) belonging to the Ministry of Economic Development.
SLMC MP M.B. Farook informed the Commissioner of Elections that Mannar Police has informed SLMC candidates to remove their election cutouts while allowing UPFA propaganda to remain.
Possible factors to look out for on Election Day
1. The behaviour of EPDP cadres
One group whose political future is significantly tied with the outcome of the September 21, 2013 elections is the EPDP. Even four years after the end of the war, the EPDP is still labelled by some as being a paramilitary group. On the other hand, the EPDP has the support of the people to some extent and they have contributed considerably to the development of the Province. Furthermore, they control some of the local authorities including the Jaffna Municipal Council. However it is apparent that the TNA has a stronger footing in the Northern Province than the EPDP. Then again, although the EPDP is in a coalition with the UPFA, it conducted its campaign separately to ensure that its candidates receive the highest number of preferential votes. Thus other coalition partners of the Government are competing with EPDP candidates.
As mentioned earlier in the Report, some of the UPFA candidates are backed by other powerful elements. Thus they might secure higher votes than the EPDP which will diminish its influence. CaFFE has observed discontent and anger at such systematic manipulations, among EPDP supporters. CaFFE will be on hand to observe how hardline EPDP cadres will react in such a circumstance.
2. Elections in the Islands
One of the most interesting aspects of the Northern Provincial Council elections is the situation in the Islands off Jaffna peninsula. During an LLRC session at Kytes in late 2010, EPDP cadres threatened those who arrived to give evidence in front of the Police.
The fact that there is no place for dissent in the Islands is well known. According to the Registry, the Kyts polling division has 47 polling stations and 21,521 eligible voters, while Delft has 3 polling stations with 2,993 eligible voters. The actual number of the voters who are resident in Kyts however might just be over 17,200 with Delft only having 2,100 or less.
In a recent visit to Kyts island CaFFE saw that toddy taverns in the island have been transformed into EPDP election propaganda centres. In several toddy taverns, a popular haunt of most men in the island, CaFFE found permanent EPDP propaganda and posters for the coming Provincial Council elections.
Kyts is a known fortress of the EPDP and other political parties that have attempted to campaign in the area have been harassed continuously.Even though no violence has been seen, if other contenders step into what is regarded as their turf, there is a possibility of violence taking place.
3. Military backing
Unidentified groups with ‘short hair that walk according to marching rhythm’have made inquiries on the physical presence of voters in the area with a copy of the Voters’ Registry at hand. The intentions behind this data collection, by and large, is however still unclear.
Even though there were incidents of violence and abuse of State properties and resources during campaigning, CaFFE largely expects violence free Election Day.
However the possible hotspots during Election Day are:
In Jaffna – Nallur, Wadukodei, Chavakachcheri, KareiNager, Manipai
In Kilinochchi – Poonakari, Waddakachchi, Paranthan (due to TNA aggressiveness), Karachchi (Due to TNA aggressiveness)
Mullaitivu – CDF activities
In Mannar – St Xavier’s College, Murunkanan, Silavaturei (possible tensions between SLMC and RisadBadhiutheen and impersonation)
KovilKulam – Isolation
Periyamadu – due to TNA aggression
The relative isolation of Jaffna and the militarised situation of the Northern Province have caused significantly different election related issues. CaFFE believes that holding elections is the purview of a civil administration and think it’s of great importance that a free and fair election is held in the Province to reintegrate the region into mainstream Sri Lankan politics and to build faith in representative democracy.
September 19, 2013