North: CMEV blames army for ‘discouraging voters’

images (8)By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) yesterday asserted that the voter turnout in the Northern Province, particularly Jaffna peninsula, at January 8, 2015 presidential election could be low due to heavy military presence there.

CMEV spokesperson Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and its chief coordinator D.M. Dissanayaka accused the government of instilling fear among the electorate by deploying the army in the guise of providing security. They predicted post-war military presence in the Northern Province could be detrimental to the electoral process.

They addressed the media at the Colombo Hilton Residence. Among those present were several representatives from Colombo based diplomatic mis

Dr. Saravanamuttu emphasised that there shouldn’t be any obstacle to the electoral process.

Dissanayake alleged that the northern army had been campaigning for incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

When The Island pointed out that the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) now in opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s camp had polled 353,595 votes (78.48 per cent) at the first Northern Provincial Council poll in September, 2013 in spite of military presence, Dissanayake claimed that military intelligence was acting in a threatening manner. Dissanayake claimed that election monitors and lawyers as well as other members of the civil society thwarted attempts by the army to interfere in the process.

The UPFA managed to poll 82,838 votes (18.38 per cent) at the Northern PC poll, whereas the TNA secured a two-thirds majority in the 38-member council.

Addressing the media on Dec 30, 2014, the TNA leadership vowed to ensure Maithripala Sirisena’s victory in Northern and Eastern Provinces. The TNA declared that it would do even better at the January 08 election than the Northern PC poll.

Dr. Saravanamuttu said that military interference meant to discourage the Tamil electorate could lead to them defying the government and exercise their franchise in support of a candidate of their choice. The CMEV spokesman recalled the circumstances under which Nov 2005 and January 2010 presidential elections were conducted in the Northern Province.

The TNA on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamil speaking voters to boycott the Nov 2005 poll. At the last presidential election, the TNA backed former army commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka. The war winning army commander won the Northern Province electoral districts comfortably thanks to the TNA support.

The media was told that the Jaffna electoral district had been affected badly due to politically motivated violence. According to the CMEV, 22 incidents had been reported from the Jaffna electoral district during the campaign (from Nov 20 to January 5). The CMEV has received altogether 420 incidents during this period, of which 237 could be categorized as serious incidents.

Dissanayake said that the CMEV wasn’t in a position to focus on the Northern Province unlike the September, 2013 Northern PC poll due to countrywide commitments.