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VOTE MITHIRIHow North views the polls

By Mirudhula Thambiah

Voters in the Northern Province look forward to a viable administration and a political solution for the national question. They stressed the need for a proper method to streamline the civil administration to resolve problems of livelihood, resettlement, families of missing persons and political from the next president.
Although there was less election related violence reported from the Northern Province people feel suspicious over developments taking place in the peninsula. Meanwhile, the election officers in the North say that necessary preparations have been already done to conduct a free and fair presidential election.

According to the latest voter registry 719,477 voters are eligible to vote in the Northern Province. Department of Elections states that 426,813 voters from Jaffna District, 68,600 from Kilinochchi District, 75,737 from Mannar, 53,683 from Mullaitivu and 94,644 voters from Vavuniya are eligible to cast their voters in the upcoming presidential elections.

Meanwhile, Northern voters speaking to Ceylon Today said the voters were not enthusiastic to vote unlike during the Northern Provincial Council election.

Thirty – three-year old businessman, V. Kirubaharan from Jaffna said the educated society views the presidential elections as just another fight between two political parties. “It is a fight between two factions of the SLFP,” he said.
“Tamils will not gain any political solution from this election. Let anyone become the President, things will not change. At the same time we want to fight for a change too. We will not gain anything from voting for any of the candidates, they both are same. Just a civil administration is not enough, we need a political solution. We need to be treated equally like others,” he said.
While, Gerald Sunderalingam , 25 year-old student from Mullaitivu said the TNA had cheated the people and they should have nominated a candidate.

“We want a change. We will definitely vote. People are eagerly awaiting 8 January to cast their votes.
They should understand that problems relating missing persons, resettlement and political prisoners are yet to be resolved,” he said.

However, 53 year-old Sivamani from Valikamam North said she had been living in rented houses for the past 23-years. “Our houses located in Valikamam North are in the High Security Zone. Therefore, we are not in a position to settle in our own villages. We don’t care about anyone winning the elections. We have not yet decided for whom to vote,” she said.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, Assistant Elections Commissioner of Jaffna Ponnuthurai Kuganathan said that campaigns are being carried out urging people not to lose their voting right but to vote at the Presidential polls. It will be a usual election for which preparations have been already planned.

According to the Assistant Elections Commissioner of Jaffna, the main District in the Northern Province will have 526 polling booths, 36 counting centres and eight postal counting centres will be set up for the elections. “We would have the main counting centre at the Jaffna Central College,” he said.
Kuganathan said there will be seven counting centres in the Kilinochchi District, which will be under the supervision of the Jaffna Elections Office and 95 polling booths will be set up.

He said two police officers will be deployed at every polling booth; police will patrol areas surrounding the polling booths. Also five centres will be set up by the police in Jaffna to register election related complaints.
“We will strictly follow the election laws, if there are any incidents relating to threat and intimidation, the Commissioner of Elections have advised us to cancel the polling in those booths. However, in such a situation the election will be held again within seven days,” he explained.

Elections Monitoring Organizations will monitor the North in the forthcoming presidential elections. People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) , Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and Asian Monitoring Organizations will monitor the elections in the North.
The Asian Monitoring Organization will consist of most representatives from South Asian Countries and already representatives from Nepal and Pakistan have visited the Northern Province to observe the situation. These monitors have assured that they will not interfere in the actions taken by State monitors and organizations, yet will observe each and every election related movement.

The Assistant Elections Commissioner further said that people in the North are ready and eager to cast their votes. Accordingly, there have not been any election violence reported from the North but only minor election law violations have been reported from Navatkuli and Nevuntheevu areas, where various elections related cutouts and posters were detected and were removed by the polls officials.

“The Jaffna District Secretary, Sundaram Arumainayagam and I are taking necessary steps to have a free and fair election. We hope for a good voter turn out,” Kuganthan said.